The editorial director of the Racing Post, Brough Scott, has said the title’s impending sale by parent company Trinity Mirror offers an opportunity for it to be more than just a “tiny cog in the wheel”.
Some 138 Trinity Mirror titles were put up for sale just before Christmas, after a four-month strategic review which followed a dip in interim profits. Included in the sale are the entire Midlands and Southern regional newspaper divisions.
Scott believes that the racing title could not achieve its maximum potential under Trinity as it was not treated as a separate business within the group with its own board. He said: “This operation needs direct handling — it needs to be a business of its own. We’re a seven day a week paper, we’ve got three weeklies, an official form book publishing operation and a 24-hour-a day website. “We are an operation, not a sports division of Trinity Mirror; that’s a complete misnomer. We are the Racing Post Group. “At the moment we don’t have a Racing Post board and are just a tiny cog in the wheel. There haven’t been the synergies, but we are the only thing Trinity Mirror’s got that is a world number one.
“It’s as much an information base as a newspaper — it has more charts than The Sunday Times. Trinity had to treat it as a newspaper, as a one size fits all, which is absurd and it didn’t work.” Scott believes the Post would be more successful if its staff could have a direct stake in the title.
“We may be bought by a company that publishes lots of publications but would make us a proper operation that is responsible for its own progress and that would energise the talent,” he said.
“This gives us a great opportunity.
I would hope any buyer would buy into our vision to some extent. “We have just been a cash cow and that’s not much fun for people who are energetic and creative to feel they don’t get any return on what they do. “What we want is to have a stake or say in what you do. It’s self evident — if you have a stake in it, it makes a difference. It would be energising to be in one building, you need to have a sense of control.
“I don’t think there will be an MBO; someone’s going to have to come and put some money up.
“I am anxious that the decision about who does buy us is in the hands of Trinity Mirror.” The Racing Post made £17million profit in 2005 and £6.9 million in the first half of 2006. It beat off competition from The Sportsman which folded in October, six months after its launch.
Scott warned that any move to take the Post down a more general sports route could prove fatal.
He said: “The worst any buyer could do is turn it upside down and call it the Sports Post. Hopefully the lesson of The Sportsman is, it doesn’t actually work like that. Our success is that it’s a racing paper for racing punters who also bet on sports. The Sportsman was a fundamentally bad idea.” Looking ahead, Scott believes there is little room for more cost cutting at the Post and a great deal of potential online.
“I want to take the project we’ve got forward and to make it the number one international multi-media racing and betting publishing operation.
“If you’re growing a business you need more people and investment in the website. Trinity runs a very tight ship; they have taken most of the fat out of it. “Management say you can run it with half the number of journalists and three robots.
“You could run the Racing Post at a cheaper cost, but you wouldn’t be able to charge a premium price for it; it’s £1.40, it’s a premium product.
“You could use PA pictures and copy but you then cut off your nose to spite your face.”