Business / Media

A £1 million farewell to Sly Bailey – the ugly face of modern capitalism.

Having closed countless newspapers and thrown thousands of employees onto the scrapheap, Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey is to walk. Her reward for the carnage – £1 million.

According to today’s Independent newspaper, the fragrant Ms Bailey will pick up the seven-figure sum for being a “good leaver” – i.e she ain’t gonna kick up a fuss. Well, if that was the farewell package on offer, would you?

The reason for her departure is that TM shareholders have suddenly seen the light of day and decided her proposed £1.7 million pay and perks for the year was too much to stomach. A showdown was expected at TM’s AGM next week. Well, it’s taken them bloody long enough.

Ms Bailey has presided over an empire which over the last few years has been crumbling at the foundations. A decade ago it was worth more than £1 billion. Today, the figure is around £80 million, no dividend has been paid for five years, the pension scheme is in a worrying state and the share price which at about this time five years ago was hovering at around the 570 mark was a miserable 31.25 when the markets closed this Friday.

Now nobody’s pretending that everything’s been hunky dory elsewhere in the meejah world or the wider economy but TM has been trumpeting that Ms Bailey has delivered robust profits (which, by the way, are continuing to decline) during the economic downturn.

And how has she achieved this? Principally by cost cutting, cost cutting, cost cutting i.e. throwing people out of work. Thousands of people across the country. Because it’s the easiest way to ‘make efficiencies’ and make sure you hit your own bonus target. The latest ‘victims’ (announced in January) are on TM’s flagship national titles, The Mirror, its Sunday namesake and the People, 75 job cuts, meaning editorial staff on those titles reduced by nearly 40% in the last couple of years.

At TM’s West Midland outpost, which publishes the Birmingham Post, the Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury and the Coventry Telegraph among others, Ms Bailey’s philosophy of delivering profitability has included selling off a prime city  centre site and moving to an out-of-city location as tenants, reductions in publishing frequency, closures of titles, and the annual round of job cuts which always seem to be announced just before Christmas. Three years ago the festive present from her majesty was a 25% cut in editorial. Cheers.

A strategy to achieve efficiency may be understandable – after all every company has to cut its cloth accordingly – but it doesn’t make it any less palatable especially when those at the top are seemingly immune to the pain and consequences of their decisions. It’s symptomatic of the way modern business has been operating – the price of failure for those at the top has been to have their pockets lined even more.

Now, shareholders up and down the Square Mile have suddenly discovered their conscience and decided enough’s enough, it’s time to rein in the fat cats. Well, guess what, it’s too late. The fat cats have had their milk, lapped it up and run off with the steak.

Hope Ms Bailey enjoys spending her £1 million farewell.


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