Sunday Times editor John Witherow has been appointed acting editor of The Times tonight.
His deputy Martin Ivens is to be acting editor of The Sunday Times.
The appointments are only understood to be “acting” because the independent directors of Times Newspapers have concerns about the legal undertakings given by Rupert Murdoch when he bought The Times titles and declined to approve permanent appointments.
These legal undertakings included keeping The Times titles separate and ensuring that only the independent directors have the power to hire and fire editors.
Last month, Times editor James Harding made clear that he left because he had been told Murdoch wanted to appoint a new editor of the paper.
The Times titles are now the only UK nationals not to make some move towards seven-day working.
And a statement issued by News International tonight warned that they face a “very difficult financial position”.
Here is the statement from NI in full:
Following a meeting of the Independent National Directors of The Times and The Sunday Times yesterday we welcome their clear understanding of the very difficult financial position of our newspapers and therefore the need to address the Undertakings given in 1981. A thorough assessment of the Undertakings will enable them to make recommendations to us and to government as to how the newspapers can be structured in order to reduce their costs and become economically viable.
However, during this interim period of continued consultation over the Undertakings, we still have a responsibility to provide these two newspapers and their journalists with strong and stable leadership. Given John Witherow’s distinguished record serving as editor of The Sunday Times over the last 18 years, we are putting him on leave from The Sunday Times and appointing him acting editor of The Times, effective immediately, and subject to formal approval as editor by the Independent Directors.