Media Lifeline: Future plc

No longer compromised by financial uncertainty, the magazine publisher can look forward to a rosy future.

June 2006: Under Greg Ingham, Future has grown to become the UK's third-largest consumer publisher, despite flirting with bankruptcy along the way. When its acquisition of Highbury House proves difficult, Ingham moves on, and Stevie Spring is named chief executive.

October 2006: Spring, who has a track record in advertising agency management before running the outdoor company Clear Channel in the UK, is expected to raise the company's profile, improve its performance in the ad market and rationalise its portfolio. In October, ten titles are put on the block. But despite disposing of its Italian division in November, Future's chairman, Roger Parry, admits that profits performance remains weak.

May 2007: Now the attention turns to digital. In April, Daniel Ward-Lee joined as digital commercial director from Times Newspapers, and Matt Woods jumped ship from BT Vision to become the digital marketing director. In May, the team is further strengthened by Richard Foster, previously the managing director of Revenue Science, as the digital director, who joins with a remit to lead digital brand extension strategy.

October 2007: And now, at last, Future's French division is sold - to WM7 for up to EUR18 million, depending on performance under its new owners. Meanwhile, indications that Future's outlook is brightening, particularly on the customer publishing side, are confirmed as it continues a recruitment drive across editorial, commercial and creative departments.

November 2007: And Future's rehabilitation moves on rapidly when it announces profits of £9.2 million - its first since 2004. Spring continues to advise caution, however, insisting that the ad market remains bloody. She refuses to rule out yet more magazine closures.

Fast forward ...

February 2008: Following the sale of Emap to a private equity company and a bungled subsequent attempt to break it up, Future acquires a number of plum consumer magazine assets for an absolute steal - becoming the country's second-largest consumer magazine publisher at a stroke. But Spring feels she has to warn an increasingly anxious City that profits might be hit while the new titles are bedded in.

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