Racing Post's new owners expect to add new services

New Racing Post editor-in-chief and chief executive Alan Byrne has said he expects more pressure to add staff than to cut jobs under new owner, ‘racing friendly’Irish investment group Festina Lente.

The private equity group paid £170m for Racing Post this week, ending Trinity Mirror‘s 10-year ownership of the betting title.

Bruce Millington, the paper’s former sports editor, has been named as the paper’s new editor and Chris Smith has been promoted from editor to managing editor.

Byrne, who edited the paper from 1992 to 2002, told Press Gazette: ‘From a personal point of view I am delighted to be back. We are looking to add services online and establish a multimedia business based on the Post’s singular editorial expertise in the racing and betting fields.

‘We’re hoping we can introduce services that take advantage of all the things that go on in racing between editions of the paper.”

As for any restructuring of the paper, Byrne said redundancies were ‘not part of the business plan”.

‘We will review the editorial structure and find out where resources need to be added and where they need to be reallocated. But my expectation is that we’re likely to be under more pressure to add staff than we are to shed staff.”

Editorial director Brough Scott – who has been with Racing Post since its launch – likened the 21-year-old title to a ‘small boat’tied to Trinity’s ‘huge tanker”.

He said: ‘It’s a great day for us to take this forward. It’s exactly what I hoped for – we had become something of a cash cow. I have always believed very strongly that we need to be a stand-alone paper.”

Scott said there would now be a ‘complete review’of the paper’s staffing and working practices but added ‘that doesn’t mean coming in and shooting every third person.

‘We need to work out how much of the editorial staff works on the paper and on the internet. But there is no wish to see this as something that is being run for half-price – if you do not invest you do not go anywhere”.

The NUJ has voiced concern about the Racing Post’s journalists’ pensions, which it said would be at risk after any sale.

In June, all staff at Trinity’s sports division were transferred to a dormant company, CenturyComm Ltd, in a move the NUJ warned could put pensions in danger.

Racing Post’s NUJ chapel did not have recognition under Trinity’s ownership, but father of chapel Robin Gibson is hoping negotiations with the new owner can start soon.

Investment

He said: ‘I’m relieved to no longer be part of Trinity Mirror, whose main raison d’etre was cost-cutting and restraint on editorial. Hopefully there is going to be investment now in the staff and the product.”

Trinity Mirror this week signed a three-year deal with FL Partners to continue printing the paper until 2010.

Racing Post had been expected by some to fetch a much higher price.

But Trinity Mirror director of corporate communications Nick Fullager said: ‘The price that was achieved for that business in terms of valuation was the right price. We have achieved a price that represents 3.4 times the 2006 revenue and 11.2 times the 2006 operating profit. They are very good multiples for any transaction of the business. We believe that represents very good value.”

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