Graf: "very proud of the Mirror"
Philip Graf is adamant that there is no hidden agenda behind his shock decision to leave his post as chief executive of Trinity Mirror next summer.
"I hate to disappoint the conspiracy theorists, but there is no conspiracy here," he said. "Whatever other people choose to spin on it, that’s their business. It is very straightforward and very simple."
Graf points to the fact that he has been doing the job for 10 years and will be 57 next summer, when he plans to leave.
He said he had no definite plans but was considering jobs within and outside newspapers, and possibly in the public sector.
But what is a surprise is the announcement of Graf’s departure coming at a time when the Daily Mirror is locked in a fierce circulation battle with The Sun and the jury is still out on the success of the paper’s switch to a more serious approach to news.
He stressed: "I am very proud of what we have done with the Mirror. It is something I am very proud to be associated with." He said of Mirror editor Piers Morgan: "I find Piers an exceptional editor, very good to work with. He understands, despite what others might wish to make of him, the commercial world very well indeed."
In the time Graf has been with Trinity he has overseen the spectacular growth of the company to become the country’s biggest regional newspaper group, after the takeover of Thomson Regional Newspapers in 1996. He followed this three years later with the Mirror merger.
"Trinity was, I think, the first to see the need to consolidate in the regional industry. We built the business on the back of that and we are beginning to reap the rewards," Graf said.
One regret is being forced to sell the Belfast Telegraph. "We got good value for it but the reasons behind us having to sell it were very disappointing."
Graff added: "I hope I can keep a connection with the newspaper industry. I owe it a lot and I enjoy the people in it enormously, so I would be very happy to stay involved." At a Society of Editors conference in Cardiff in 2000, Graff attacked what he called the "poor" standard of reporting of Trinity Mirror’s affairs by the rest of the press.
He said this week: "I think there are some very good media and very good City correspondents and there are some who could do with understanding both the industry and the business."
Trinity Mirror says it is looking both internally and externally for a successor. Internally, speculation centres on Joe Sinyor, the chief executive of newspapers, who joined the company from Sony.
By Jon Slattery