MGN and Telegraph to abandon Apollo plans

The Telegraph Group and Mirror Group Newspapers have shelved plans for their joint sales house, Apollo, four months before the expected launch of the operation.

The two publishers have been in negotiations over the logistics of Apollo since March, when they announced their intention to combine their ad sales operations by the end of the year. However, in a joint statement issued on Monday, both parties admitted that the timing for the proposed project was not right.

"During the past few months, MGN has launched a number of important strategic initiatives and we need to maintain the focus of our management effort on these, MGN's managing director, Mark Haysom, said.

Since the announcement of the Apollo proposals, MGN has been engaged in the strategic repositioning of its flagship titles. For the past three months, the papers have also been engaged in a price war with News International's rival tabloid, The Sun.

The basic structure of Apollo, which was to be owned by the Telegraph Group but with representatives from both parties on its board, was announced in March. However, the question of who would lead the MGN team within the Apollo structure was only settled at the end of May when Dominic Carter was appointed to the position of display ad director at MGN.

Carter's appointment was followed by a radical restructure of MGN's sales department, halving the number of sales managers. The restructure was seen as a necessary precursor to combining the two sales outfits.

The Telegraph Group's managing director of sales, Len Sanderson, who had previously led an attempt to combine the group's sales with those of the Daily Express, did not rule out a return to the Apollo project.

"The Telegraph Group continues to believe in the concept of an advertising sales house for national newspapers, he said. "When the time is right we expect to consider the idea again."

Haysom added: "There remains an excellent spirit of co-operation between Telegraph Group and MGN, but both companies believe the current timing is not right."

- Perspective, p12.

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