Thursday, 12 August 2010

Desmond culls Five's management team

Channel Five will lose seven out of nine executive board directors, as new owner Richard Desmond attempts to make savings of around £20 million - £9 million from staff cuts, and £11 million from overheads.

Only Jeff Ford, managing director of digital channels, and Kelly Williams, sales director, will remain.

At a 10am meeting this morning, staff were told about Desmond's cost-cutting plans, which include up to 80 job losses (over 25% of around 300 current employees).

One of those leaving is Dawn Airey, Five chairman and chief executive. She joined Channel Five in 1996, the year before it launched, as its first director of programmes, and became chief executive in 2000. Airey will be moving to RTL - Five's former owner.

Richard Woolfe, director of programmes, is also leaving. Ford will be taking over his role, which appears to indicate a decrease in original programming, as Woolfe has been encouraging new talent since joining Channel Five last year.

Others leaving are director of legal affairs and company secretary Paul Chinnery, director of strategy Charles Constable, finance director David Hockley, corporate affairs director Sue Robertson and managing director Mark White.

Airey said that: "The day Five was sold, my job was done. I will be returning to the RTL Group but over the next few months will remain in post with a number of my senior colleagues to facilitate the integration of Five into Northern & Shell.

"I want to thank Richard, Charles, Sue, Mark, David, Paul and Natasha for the dedication and commitment that they have shown Five and the support they have given me over the years. They have all made a significant contribution to leading Five towards a successful future. I love Five, its staff, its spirit and all we have achieved. I wish the channel, its team, Richard Desmond and Northern & Shell all the success they deserve."

"This is the first of many initiatives that will see a new streamlined Channel Five make enormous strides over the coming years. One area of particular importance is that of Project Canvas and the amazing possibilities it opens up for the future for viewers."

Desmond added: "Whilst I'm sorry to see Dawn move on, I'm thrilled that she'll be in the mix to contribute to the various exciting plans we have and oversee the acquisition and development of brilliant new content."

As well as the impending redundancies, Five staff were also told that they will be moving out of their offices in Covent Garden. Instead, they will be working at Desmond's Northern & Shell premises in the City, and there will be a merging of back office functions (such as IT and human resources) between the businesses.

In a statement today, Northern & Shell said: "The savings aim to realise efficiencies deriving from Channel Five's integration into the Northern & Shell group of companies and at the same time develop an ambitious new investment plan that will see the channel go toe-to-toe with the biggest players in the TV world. Long-term financial input in the field of £300m per year for the next five years is planned by Northern & Shell."

This £20 million cost-cutting plan is reminiscent of the cuts Desmond made at The Daily Express, when he purchased it almost ten years ago.

Desmond bought Channel Five for £103.5 million last month, announcing a £1 billion plan to turn the channel around after it reported an operating loss of €41 million last year.

Originally posted on Newsline, part of the MediaTel Group

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