Davidson steps up at Newsquest as Brown retires

Jim Brown’s right hand for six years at Newsquest, group managing director Paul Davidson, is to succeed his boss as executive chairman when Brown retires in July.

Davidson has been an instrumental member of the team, which has built the group into a massive regional player since its management buyout of Reed Regional Newspapers for £205m in 1995.

Gannett, owner of Newsquest, has significantly not brought in any of its US team but has continued to place its confidence in the British management.

It is no wonder then that Davidson believes his promotion to the top job is a "natural evolution". He said he was looking forward to continuing the strategy and progress that the group has made over the years. And that means more acquisitions, following closely on this month’s purchase of Dimbleby Newspapers.

"Evolution is what we’re looking for. Our strategy is very simple – we continue to expand both through acquisitions and new launches," said Davidson. "There’s always tomorrow."

But Brown, who stays as non-executive chairman, and who has been the driving force behind his newspapers – now totalling 300 titles – for 17 years, does feel there will be change.

"I don’t think it will take a fundamentally different direction but when you have new leadership, you must expect change," he pointed out. "If I were in his shoes, I am sure I would want to bring about some changes, but at the end of the day it will be to help maintain the fundamental growth of the company. We have come up from something not very big to something pretty large. Paul will maintain that momentum but bring his own style to it. We have always been blessed by strong management – that’s the secret of Newsquest."

The two Scots doubled the size of Newsquest by buying Westminster Press in 1996, and later ßoated the company and acquired Newscom. It was bought by Gannett in 1999 for £904m and is now in pursuit of Regional Independent Media, in partnership with Johnston Press and Guardian Media Group.

Davidson, 47, has a background

in marketing and sales and was

previously with Thomson Regional Newspapers in Aberdeen.

Newsquest’s long-serving finance director, John Pfeil, is also to leave. He will be replaced by Paul Hunter, the group finance controller since 1997. Two other Newsquest regional managing directors are made board members – Tim Blott (Lancashire and Bradford) and Roger Mills (London).

Brown views his partial retirement – he has tried to go several times before but events have prevented it – with equanimity: "One’s had the thrill of achievement and the pleasure of a lot of support from all my colleagues. It’s nice to know I will still have some involvement with the company, to give the guys help if needed, though I’m sure it won’t be."

By Jean Morgan

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