It had seemed only a matter of time before Murdoch MacLennan swung his axe again at the Telegraph Group. But when this week's blood on the carpet proclaimed a new cull had taken place, the extent of the clear-out was no less chilling.
Mark Payne, the commercial director, and Chris White-Smith, the group sales director, left the Telegraph's offices last Friday. Mark Dixon, the Telegraph Group's marketing director, had already left the building.
An official announcement was planned for this Tuesday, but was brought forward after news began to leak out about the departures. It wasn't long before the Telegraph Group confirmed that Dave King, the managing director of Emap Advertising, is to join as an executive director, responsible for advertising policy.
The departures and King's appointment follow the arrival of MacLennan in September. He was poached by the Barclay brothers from Associated Newspapers, following the completion of their £665 million acquisition of the Telegraph Group. MacLennan wasted little time in firing the managing director, Hugo Drayton, and the finance director, Niamh O'Donnell-Keenan. He had also hired John Allwood, the former executive vice-president of Orange, as an executive director.
Now he's installed King as his key commercial man. King, 45, headed a sales operation at Emap responsible for £140 million in revenue and employing 240 people. Emap, which also recently lost its broadcast sales director, Tim Bleakley, to Viacom, is looking for King's replacement. Paul Keenan, the chief executive of Emap Consumer Media and the chairman of Emap Advertising, will continue to oversee its activity.
King's arrival at the Telegraph in January is likely to lead to changes in the way the Telegraph trades with advertisers and agencies. He argued that his lack of newspaper experience will not be a barrier.
He said: "There is room for change. National press has been bought and sold in the same way for years and it's time to evolve things ... hopefully I'll be able to improve efficiency and then spend more time creating great media solutions."
Agencies said King's appointment could enable the Telegraph to move away from the line-by-line sales system favoured by most newspapers and to offer more cross-media solutions across newspapers, magazines and online.
Robert Ditcham, the commercial director at Initiative, said: "Dave has had a degree of success in applying different sales skills to various media. There is the opportunity to apply that to where he's going."
Sources suggest that MacLennan wants the Telegraph to toughen up and act more like a market leader in dealings with agencies. One press director said: "With The Sun and the Daily Mail, you get the leaders dictating the marketplace. But the Telegraph has tended to be fairly fluffy and wasn't behaving as the biggest-selling daily broadsheet."
The Telegraph Group's ad revenue was £211 million in 2002. Its full 2003 revenues have not yet been published owing to problems with its previous owner, Hollinger International, but for the first nine months of 2003 they fell 8.5 per cent to £144.6 million.
On the marketing side, Dixon will be replaced, but not immediately. The Telegraph's editor, Martin Newland, has taken on more responsibility for marketing. The Telegraph uses Clemmow Hornby Inge for creative, Naked Inside for communications planning and Universal McCann for media buying. A spokeswoman said: "There are no current plans to review our agencies." However, CHI's hold on the account looks shaky after the departures of Dixon and Drayton, its two main allies at the paper, while Jeremy Deedes, the former chief executive and another advocate of CHI, recently took more of a back seat in the group.
The Telegraph is fighting increased competition from the tabloid Times and Independent, both of which have seen their circulations increase.
The Telegraph's October circulation was down by 3.8 per cent year on year to 900,702.
As well as assessing the competition from "quality" tabloids, the Telegraph is investing in greater colour capacity at Westferry, the printing plant it jointly owns with Express Newspapers.
DAVE KING - THE INSIDE TRACK
Dave King has had long career at agencies and media owners, but has never worked for a newspaper. In his most recent role, at Emap, King was known as a tough negotiator, but also as interested in building a strong culture and developing creative solutions for advertisers. He led the move toward offering agency deals on radio as well as in magazines, and his interest in cross-media solutions will have been attractive to Telegraph Group.
1983: King joins Yershon Media as a TV planner/buyer and is quickly promoted to board director. His clients include Guinness and Associated Newspapers.
1995: Business development director, Carat. Made broadcast director in 1997. Former Carat colleagues praise him as a good team builder and motivator.
1999: Moves to Emap as sales director (broadcast). Despite his TV background, King works on the radio side, before adding TV and digital to his brief. His arrival coincides with plans to launch Emap Advertising.
2001: Managing director of Emap Advertising. Key changes during his tenure include increasing Emap's cross-media offering and introducing more of a "TV-style" approach to trading other media, including radio.
2004: Executive director at the Telegraph Group. King doesn't believe that his lack of newspaper experience will count against him.
- MacLennan, the managing director of Associated Newspapers, named chief
executive of Telegraph Group October 2004
- Hires John Allwood, the former Mirror Group chief executive and the
Orange executive vice-president, as an executive director with a brief
to cut costs
- Ousts the Telegraph managing director, Hugo Drayton
- Ousts the finance director, Niamh O'Donnell-Keenan December 2004
- Ousts Mark Payne, commercial director
- Ousts Chris White-Smith, group sales director
- Ousts Mark Dixon, marketing director
- Hires Dave King as an executive director