Profits down,editor's pay up

By Dominic Ponsford

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger enjoyed a £150,000 bonus for the
year to the end of April in recognition of his part in the paper’s
switch to Berliner format.

Sales of The Guardian dipped to an average of 376,329 over the
period – well below the paper’s historic 400,000 benchmark. And
combined pre-tax losses for The Guardian and The Observer (before
interest) ballooned to £48.3m, up from £6.2m last year, mainly due to
costs associated with buying Berliner-size presses. But the
non-profit-making Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian, decided
Rusbridger deserved the extra reward for his “leading role in the
development of the new format Guardian newspaper”.

The
exceptional bonus, half of which was paid into his pension, brought his
pay as Guardian editor and a director of the Scott Trust to £373,000,
plus another £172,000 paid into his pension pot. In 2004 his salary was
£272,000 and another £89,000 was paid into his pension.In Guardian
Media Group’s annual report, Scott Trust chairman Liz Forgan revealed
that the company was tempted to follow The Times and The Independent by
going tabloid.

She said such a move would have been “quick,
comparatively cheap because the same presses could have been used, and
comparatively easy because it is a well-tried format in Britain and we
all know how it works.”

But she added: “The editor made a
passionate case that tabloid was the wrong size for The Guardian.
Tabloid front pages are all or nothing affairs.

Great for a day with a single, big story.

Constricting when a range of voices is needed to explain the world properly.”

The Guardian’s Berliner relaunch is to happen some time in the autumn and The Observer will follow suit early next year.

Overall,
GMG reported turnover up 18 per cent to £751.9m and pre-tax profits
down to £22.9m (compared with £43.6m last year). The figures were hit
by a total investment of £110m in new presses for the national and
regional newspapers and the Trader Media magazine division. Turnover
for the two national titles was up three per cent to £233.8m.

The
loss-making Observer and Guardian were offset by the regional titles
(such as the Manchester Evening News), which made pre-tax profits of
£22m on turnover of £138.3m. They were also down because of the cost of
re-pressing.

Trader Media group, which includes Auto Trader and
has become GMG’s major cash cow, delivered pre-tax profits of £85.4m on
turnover of £304.9m.

Guardian Media Group is a public company wholly-owned by the Scott Trust and so immune from the usual shareholder pressure.

Scott Trust chairman Paul Myners explained why plunging profits at the national papers were not a cause for alarm.

“The
Guardian Media Group can be strong because of our established
commitment to the Scott Trust values and their long-term perspective,
putting a premium on editorial values rather than on short-term profit
considerations.”

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