Freedom of information campaigner and Archant shareholder Lord Lucas of Crudwell has mounted a challenge to the board of the newspaper group.
Lucas has written to fellow shareholders raising questions about the way the company is run. Last month Archant lost a £700,000 investment after the Dublin Daily folded. The Norwich-based company owns four regional daily newspapers and 61 weeklies and has indicated that is eager to expand further.
In 1999, Lucas introduced a bill to the House of Lords on behalf of the Campaign for Freedom of Information. He told Press Gazette: “I’m just trying to get shareholders opinions on what they think of the company at the minute.” He added: “I’m concerned that Archant is taking risks more appropriate to a public company.”
Rather than being a stock market listed public company, Archant is owned by private shareholders and run by a board of directors. Lucas said he was a small shareholder, but not one of the smallest.
“It’s about what shareholders feel about the direction Archant is going,” he added. “Until I get a final number of responses to my letter, which has only just gone out, I won’t have a feeling as to what direction I want to go.”
Archant chairman Richard Jewson has sent a written response to all shareholders. In it he says: “Your board remains committed to growing shareholder value for the benefit of all shareholders. Ours is a marvellous, strong company and we shall continue to exercise our stewardship with great care and prudence. One of our great strengths has been a united shareholder group.”
On the subject of Archant’s investments in other companies, he says: “Some, a number of those taken in radio companies for example, have been very successful. “The investment of £700,000 in Dublin Daily has been unsuccessful and the lessons have been learned.”
Jewson emphasised in his letter that regional newspapers remained the core of the company’s business and that this is an area which could see further expansion.
By Dominic Ponsford