When the news broke last week that David Arculus, Emap’s managing
director, was to join United News and Media as chief operating officer,
two very public things happened.
United’s share price rose 16p to 703.5p, adding pounds 80 million to the
company’s value. And Emap’s share price fell 28p to 784.5p, wiping
pounds 60 million off its value.
Talk about raising expectations. That’s quite something for even a (6ft
6ins) colossus like Mr Arculus to live up to.
’The City’s reaction was a bit of a shock,’ Arculus admits. ’I wish
business was really as simple as that.
But as my friends pointed out, it could have been worse - the figures
could have been reversed.’
Arculus also jokes that the stock-market response has left him wishing
he’d negotiated a better deal with United. As an Emap shareholder and a
man who would like to become a United shareholder, it’s not necessarily
a move his wallet would have wanted.
Nevertheless, the public response to his appointment was unequivocally
positive. Arculus says his best credential for the United job is the
fact that during his time at Emap the company’s market capitalisation
grew from pounds 1 million to pounds 1.7 billion. But ask him what his
own contribution to the company’s success is, and you get a typically
’I can’t take any particular personal credit. It has always been a team
effort at Emap, the people on the ground deserve most of the credit. I’m
just good at backing creative teams of people and giving them the space
to build their business.’
Tom Moloney, the chief executive of Emap’s consumer division, says that
Arculus is a real enthusiast, ’an ideas man who sets extremely high
standards, with little tolerance for people who make excuses, but he’s
very fair, very supportive, bright and encouraging. I’ll certainly miss
Still, Arculus’s departure from Emap follows an unsettling period in the
boardroom - Arculus was reportedly in dispute with the company’s chief
executive, Robin Miller, and the chairman, John Hoskyns. So was this
instrumental in his decision to move on? ’Not particularly. I suppose
everybody at Emap would have preferred it if things had happened a
little differently, but I try not to look back. Clive Hollick (United’s
chief executive) came along and made me a particularly good offer.’
Arculus’s new role will be to oversee United’s four operating divisions
- broadcasting and entertainment, consumer publishing, business services
and overseas publishing. And despite some overlaps with Emap
(exhibitions, business magazines, consumer magazines), Arculus says he
relishes the prospect of the United job because of its differences from
the Emap task.
Ironically, Emap and United Newspapers are rumoured to have held
extensive merger talks a few years ago. And Arculus turned down a plum
ITV job - controller of the ITV Network Centre - in 1992. So he has some
experience of United’s highest profile assets.
Take TV - where United’s interests include Meridian, Anglia, a Channel 5
stake and the airtime sales house, TSMS. ’It’s such an exciting time for
television, there are so many changes ahead,’ he enthuses. With United
potentially sidelined in the digital terrestrial broadcasting future
(ITV rivals Granada and Carlton have joined forces with BSkyB to bid for
a digital terrestrial licence), the challenge for Arculus is to embrace
the change and ensure that United keeps pace with the competition.
Then there’s the consumer publishing business (United’s interests
include the Express and the Daily Star), where perhaps the most
immediate contest lies. Arculus says: ’We’ve already made great leaps
forward with the Express (currently selling 905,000 less than the Daily
Mail), and there’s the development of the Daily Star (3.3 million sales
behind the market leader, the Sun).’
As for pulling the divisions closer together, Arculus is wary.
’Companies that talk too much about media convergence are in danger of
going off the rails,’ he warns.
On a personal level, Oxford-educated Arculus - a 50-year-old
self-confessed family man with a penchant for cricket, golf and hill
walking - is widely regarded as a gentleman.
Sally Cartwright, Hello!’s publisher, enthuses he’s the sort of guy who
’really appreciates women. He always makes you feel as though he enjoys
As Arculus brings his particular blend of charisma to the hitherto
rather charmless corridors of United, the City will be hoping that he
also brings with him the Emap golden touch. And justifies that extra
pounds 80 million.
The Arculus file
1968 BBC World Service, trainee
1972 Emap, corporate planner
1974 Emap, publisher
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