HEADLINER: United’s new signing aims to live up to great expectations - The City hopes that David Arculus still has a golden touch, Claire Beale writes

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.

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

modest response.



’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

him.’



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

seeing you.’



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