PERSPECTIVE: IPC’s redundancies suggest overpriced bid by buyout team

There can only be sadness that IPC is to shed 200 staff, approximately 10 per cent of its workforce. Rival magazine houses and those that lost out in their bids for the company from Reed Elsevier last year should feel no schadenfreude.

There can only be sadness that IPC is to shed 200 staff,

approximately 10 per cent of its workforce. Rival magazine houses and

those that lost out in their bids for the company from Reed Elsevier

last year should feel no schadenfreude.



The buyout team backed by the Cinven venture capital group appears to

have paid too much to sustain the overhead. As some analysts pointed

out, the pounds 860 million price was more than 13 times profits. But

the desire to see an independent team of ’magazine people’ succeed

encouraged a certain suspension of scepticism.



Some may say that the redundancies should have been made upon the

conclusion of the management buyout last year. It would certainly have

made life easier in anticipation of an industry-wide drop in ad revenue.

But the aftermath of such a deal is not only about money. It would have

been very difficult for Matthew, as the man running the company the day

before the buyout, to have suddenly acknowledged that he needed to lose

10 per cent of the workforce. Why hadn’t he done so previously? It would

also have been a terrible morale blow for staff.



Unfortunately, to act now invites the suggestion of failure. And it’s

true there has not been the level of launches expected; the summer ABCs

were disappointing; Eva and Vox closed, as did the South Bank Special

Projects division; and there were high-profile exits: Heather Love,

Sally O’Sullivan, Chris Boyd and Juliet Warkentin.



Matthew has said that the first year was ’challenging’. But in his

defence it also brought successes such as Loaded Fashion and the Link

House deal in October that brought in 27 titles. Moreover, magazine

people are always leaving publishing houses for rivals - ask NatMags’

Terry Mansfield. IPC has lured high-profile staff such as David Arculus,

Rita Lewis and Isobel McKenzie-Price.



It should also be said that the restructure heralding the redundancies

is overdue. IPC was nicknamed the ’ministry of magazines’ long before

the buyout. The agility of competitors like NatMags and - in particular

- Emap means that the situation could not be allowed to persist.



Matthew’s decision to make the five publishing groups - Women’s

Weeklies, TV Weeklies, SouthBank, Country & Leisure and Music & Sport -

subsidiary companies should indeed help flatten the structure and make

IPC more nimble.



The pounds 5 million cost of redundancies is expected to save pounds 6

million a year. If this is actually ploughed back into the marketing and

editorial quality of the group’s magazines, then it should pay

dividends.



IPC has brands anyone would want: Loaded, Marie Claire, TV Times,

Country Life, Woman’s Own -as well as lucrative specialists like

Yachting World.



But in the difficult 12 months ahead, Matthew must start delivering on

his promises to prove they were worth what was paid for them.



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