Reader's Digest

The saga over the control of the general interest family magazine is worthy of the Ewing family.

February 2010: Financial troubles at Reader's Digest Association Inc in the US were not expected to hurt the group's UK operation - but when irreparable holes are found in the UK pension fund, the business is put into administration. It's the end of an era. Reader's Digest isn't just a magazine that's been around since the 30s (and as far back as the 20s in the US) - the brand is also synonymous with direct mail promotions.

April 2010: Weeks later, Better Capital, a private equity fund, backs a management buyout led by Chris Spratling, the managing director of Reader's Digest UK. He promises no cuts in the 100-strong staff - and commits to investing in the UK title while expanding its internet operation.

July 2010: But he doesn't last long. When he steps aside in the summer, he says that his decision has been a "hugely difficult one" but, ultimately, he adds, he is keen to take his career in a "different direction". Sean Cooper, the chairman of Vivat, the company set up by Better Capital to manage Reader's Direct UK, says he "respects" Spratling's decision.

4 May 2011: Spratling had been quietly succeeded at some point by the banker David Titmuss. He breaks cover in May to announce a radical relaunch of the title, still edited by the former Radio Times editor Gill Hudson, but now featuring a stellar cast of columnists including Martha Lane Fox.

5 May 2011: In the early hours, though, with staff out celebrating the relaunch, it becomes apparent that Titmuss has, in fact, departed. "We can confirm that he has left to pursue other interests," a spokeswoman intones. "His successor will be appointed in due course." In the interim, leadership is to be supplied by Cooper - and the central goal is still to raise the magazine's circulation from just over 430,000 to 700,000 within three years.


June 2011: But Titmuss is not done yet. Now backed by a consortium called Waiting Room Media, he makes an audacious £50 million cash bid for the magazine. The Eastbourne-based consortium also announces that it intends to revive the humorous magazine Punch - and there are even rumours that it hopes to reintroduce the popular photojournalism title Picture Post, edited this time around by Sir David Frost.


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