Mag comes in-house as shares fall

Highbury’s Fletcher: taken production in-house

untry House & Home is looking for a new editorial team following a decision by its owner Highbury House Communications to bring production of the title in-house.

The magazine, which carries aspirational and practical features on interiors, food, gardening and rural issues, has been produced by independent company Fellows Media for the past three years. Jo Fellows has edited the title during that time and is among the staff affected by the decision, along with a team of designers.

Staff learnt of the move ahead of a profit warning last week, which prompted a share price fall, as Highbury admitted the proposed sale of its B2B titles had been halted due to poor results.

It is understood to be linked to cost-cutting and is believed to have come as a surprise to staff, who claim it costs less to outsource the magazine than appoint a new team and produce it in-house.

A source said: “It’s a shame because the team enjoyed doing it.” Highbury is in the process of recruiting a new editor, features editor, sub editor, art editor and designer, and is expected to make a further statement on the plans for the title in the new year.

The changes fit in with Highbury’s strategy to focus on consumer publishing, having established itself as seventhlargest UK-quoted consumer publisher.

The company’s B2B magazines were on the verge of a management buyout until the deal collapsed last week because market difficulties meant Highbury could not get the price it wanted. Highbury, which owns consumer titles ranging from Front and Real Homes to Fast Bikes, has been looking to sell its B2B business for the past few months. A deal would allow it to focus on the consumer side, following its recent acquisitions such as Cabal Communications and Paragon Publishing.

Executive chairman of Highbury, Ian Fletcher, said at least six venture capitalists had made offers but none of them matched the price Highbury was looking for. The company said trading in its business division in the second part of the year had been “disappointing” and blamed difficulties in the travel and manufacturing sectors and the disruption caused by reorganisation of staff.

Highbury said its consumer magazines had performed better, but warned its profits would be less than the previous year, largely due to a slowdown in the London property market, which had an adverse affect on Highbury’s Local Publications division.

Profits were also hit by poor advertising sales in the home entertainment division, reflecting the slowdown in consumer spending. The company said trading in October was “particularly bad” and warned shareholders that profits would be “significantly” below expectations.

By Ruth Addicott

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