Monday 29 July 2019 8:51 am

Reach boss Simon Fox to step down as publisher posts strong digital growth

The chief executive of Daily Mirror publisher Reach is stepping down after seven years, as the company unveiled significant growth in its digital division for the half year.

Simon Fox will leave the firm on 16 August and will be replaced by Jim Mullen, who is currently chief executive of gambling giant Ladbrokes Coral.

Read more: Shares in Reach spike after it confirms JPI Media takeover talks

It comes as Reach, which also owns OK! Magazine and a string of local newspaper titles, posted a 10 per cent increase in revenue from its digital business.

The media group said its average monthly page views grew 16 per cent year-on-year in 2019 to 1.2bn.

The bumper growth in clicks was fuelled by strong performance for the group’s sports sections. Liverpool-related coverage during the Champions League final helped drive 17m page views over the space of 72 hours.

Reach is the sixth largest online property in the UK, reaching 40m unique users each month and over 50 per cent of the population in the large cities it serves on a weekly basis.

Overall, revenue slipped 0.3 per cent over the period to £352.6m, including the impact of the firm’s takeover of the Express & Star.

Strong digital growth helped to offset a decline in print, as revenue from circulation and print advertising declined more than eight per cent, reflecting an ongoing shift in the media industry.

However, the like-for-like decline in revenue was an improvement on the previous half-year period.

Profit before tax hit £58.2m on a statutory basis, compared to a loss of £113.5m in the previous six months. Shares in Reach rose just under five per cent in early trading.

“There is never an ideal time to leave an organisation, but if there were it would be now,” said outgoing boss Simon Fox.

“The integration of the Express & Star has been successfully completed, digital growth is accelerating and our trading and cash position are strong. I am proud of what has been achieved and will provide Jim with whatever support is required to ensure a smooth handover.”

Reach said it anticipates full-year trading in line with expectations and said it will look to drive digital revenue growth further.

Read more: Daily Mirror owner Reach joins race to buy JPI Media

The media company is in talks to buy assets from JPI Media, which owns titles including The i, The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman.

Reach said it will consider merger and acquisition opportunities if they conform with its strategy, but did not offer an update on the JPI discussions.

Main image credit: Getty