HEADLINER: Reinventing IPC is last great challenge for ex-Emap boss - David Arculus is relishing overseeing IPC’s flotation. Anna Griffiths investigates

David Arculus’s towering frame looks slightly the worse for wear as it slowly folds itself into a chair, following a night of excess with an old industry mucker, Felix Dennis, founder of Dennis Publishing. But despite his delicate head, the chairman of IPC and elder statesman of the magazine industry is as smooth and sharp as ever.

David Arculus’s towering frame looks slightly the worse for wear as

it slowly folds itself into a chair, following a night of excess with an

old industry mucker, Felix Dennis, founder of Dennis Publishing. But

despite his delicate head, the chairman of IPC and elder statesman of

the magazine industry is as smooth and sharp as ever.



Appointed last February by Cinven, the venture capital group which

backed the IPC management buyout, Arculus has the task of guiding the

UK’s largest magazine group through flotation within the next two to

four years.



With critics shaking their heads at the substantial sum shelled out to

IPC’s previous owners, Reed Elsevier, anyone might feel a bit daunted by

the task of ensuring that IPC produces the financial goods for its

investors.



But Arculus’s track record in building a company’s assets is

impressive.



At Emap, where he was group managing director for eight years, he helped

grow the company’s market capitalisation from pounds 1 million to pounds

1.7 billion.



During his 24-year stint at Emap he accumulated a wealth of knowledge

about the magazine market which few would question.



Dennis, who refers to Arculus as a ’silver-tongued devil’, says: ’David

would be successful if he were running a Swiss clock company - he’s got

a wonderful nose for a deal, a most enviable reputation for integrity,

and is very loyal.’



Mike Matthew, IPC’s chief executive, says: ’Occasionally it’s

frustrating that one’s group chairman knows the business as well as

David does. He’s a natural dealmaker, which is important for us at our

stage of development.’



According to Arculus, IPC is evolving into a more dynamic and innovative

company. From 1 April the five magazine divisions will become five

distinct business groups, with each being financially accountable.



With reference to the recent 200 job cuts, Arculus says the company is

pruning itself in order to grow. ’The mark of the success of the

reorganisation will be when we are employing more people in five years’

time. We want to get editors closer to the top of the company. These

separate companies will focus on the market groups, and so will be much

more sensitive to the market.’



An area that Arculus is keen to improve on is IPC’s circulation

figures.



He’s also aware that some titles are not coming up with the goods. ’In

the South Bank we have some really good titles but some are not punching

their weight at the moment. I certainly think that Woman’s Journal

should be futher ahead than it is.’



He is keen to extend IPC’s international frontier. Last October, IPC’s

Australian operations formed a joint venture with Kerry Packer’s

Australian Consolidated Press, to exploit opportunities in Australasia,

and other alliances are planned. ’This market is of a finite size,’

Arculus says. ’It’s not growing at present in the UK so there’s pressure

to go abroad.’ He also wants to diversify IPC’s UK portfolio: ’We will

eventually go into business magazines as well.’



Industry observers have been waiting for cracks to appear in the

relationship between Arculus and Matthew, but so far both men seemed to

have reached a mutual understanding. Matthew says of Arculus’s

appointment: ’It produced very mixed emotions, because I had regarded

him as the embodiment of one of my main competitors - it takes a bit of

adjusting to. It’s clear to us both that we are very different people in

our style. Obviously at times we have sat down and discussed who does

what, but I think we’ve come through that nicely.’



Arculus, who splits his time between IPC and his chairmanship of Severn

Trent Water, carefully outlines his position: ’It is very important to

make it clear the chief executive runs the company and the chairman runs

the board. But they coalesce and overlap in deciding the forward

strategy of the company.’



Arculus’s career has not all been plain sailing. He left Emap after a

reported dispute with the company’s chief executive, Robin Miller, to

join United News and Media as chief operating officer, where he stayed

for just one year. ’I always knew that either Robin or I would be made

chairman of Emap and if it wasn’t me I’d have to leave,’ Arculus

explains.



For legal reasons he is unable to reveal why he left United, but Arculus

evidently found that his expectations of the job did not match those of

the company.



Instead, it seems that IPC will see Arculus, who’s 52, into his

retirement.



’By the time we have floated and built the company up I will be too old

to be publishing magazines. I would certainly stay here until I’m

60.’



The Arculus file

1968

BBC World Service, trainee

1972

Emap, corporate planner

1978

Emap, launched Smash Hits

1980

Launched Emap Business Publishing and Emap Exhibitions

1989

Emap, group managing director

1997

United News and Media, chief operating officer

1998

IPC Magazines, chairman



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