Media Lifeline: Times Newspapers

As losses continue to escalate, what is the future for Murdoch's titles?

1993: After the union troubles and Wapping move in the 80s, Rupert Murdoch takes his commitment to his flagship quality UK newspapers, The Times and The Sunday Times, to another level when he triggers a savage coverprice war in the quality market.

2002: The price war helps push circulation on The Times through the 800,000 mark (from around 350,000 previously), but at a huge cost. Although the price war winds down in 1999 thanks to the threat of an Office of Fair Trading investigation, it all kicks off again in 2002 - and this time it's against the austere background of an advertising recession triggered by the terrorist atrocities of 11 September 2001 in New York.

2004: The full extent of the mounting losses at Times Newspapers emerges in May when the company reveals that the deficit to the end of the financial year, 2003, was £28.65 million - almost double the previous year's losses of £16.3 million. The deficits are almost certainly attributable to The Times, but costs on The Sunday Times are not insignificant either - thanks to the launch of its CD-Rom content vehicle, The Month.

2005: The deficits keep mounting. Times Newspapers, which appoints Paul Hayes as its managing director, reveals just how expensive the evolution of The Times to tabloid format has been. Losses to the end of the financial year in 2004 were £40.1 million.

2007: A mere bagatelle, however, compared with the latest bath of red ink. In results released last week, pre-tax losses were declared at £80.7 million for the year to the end of June 2006. That's a 72 per cent increase on the losses to June 2005, which were £46.9 million. Times Newspapers has lost a cumulative £212 million in the five-year period from July 2001 to June 2006.

Fast forward ...

2009: As losses soar through the £100 million mark per annum and a restructured Murdoch empire looks to divest itself of its remaining print assets, there's a growing realisation that there's only one man who can really contemplate taking ownership of The Times - the newly qualified British citizen Roman Abramovich.