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Newsquest chief exits with a salary equivalent to 25 journalists

1 October 2014

The chief executive of Newsquest signed off his final year with a 9.5 per cent pay rise, while his staff's wages went down by almost £5 million.

Paul Davidson, stood down as CEO in April, but stayed on as chairman of the group. He raked in £610,458 as Newsquest's highest paid executive in 2013 – an increase of £53,000 on the previous 12 months.

His salary was the equivalent of 25 journalists' jobs.

The figure is contained in the formal accounts filed by Newsquest’s UK parent, Gannett UK, which also showed that, during the same period, the overall cost of staff wages and salaries declined by 4 per cent, or £4.7m, to £113.7m.

It is unclear whether Mr Davidson’s figure includes money from a £268,000 "performance payment" pot to directors and how much of a total £2.5 million “share-based payments” paid out in 2013 also went to him.

For being in charge of the UK’s second biggest circulation newspaper group, his pay packet compares to the £500,000 salary paid out to Simon Fox, chief executive of the larger Trinity Mirror, and £400,000 base pay for Ashley Highfield, boss, of Johnston Press.

By contrast, Newsquest’s journalists have, for the most part, suffered for five of the past six years without any rise. They have often been pushed into taking unpaid leave and having allowances and other benefits axed as part of savage cost-cutting.

The news comes at a critical time, as many Newsquest chapels will be considering their response to the continuing staff pay freeze, at a meeting of reps in Manchester this weekend. It also coincides with the TUC’s Britain Needs a Pay Rise march in London on October 18.

The accounts showed that, although Gannett UK, which is the controlling UK arm of American parent group Gannett Inc, had a 10 per cent fall in operating profits to £52.8 million, its directors declared that “the underlying businesses remain profitable and cash generative”.

Turnover was also down by 5.4 per cent during 2013 to £288.5 million and a £22.5 million payment went into the old Newsquest final-salary pension scheme, closed to new accrual in 2011.

Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ group chapel official, said:

“The squeeze on living standards of our members in Newsquest has been harsh and brutal in recent years.
“It is breath-taking that the vast pay packet trousered by Paul Davidson year-in, year-out, could rise yet further during the year. His pay is equal to that of 25 typical Newsquest journalists and yet he has guided the company to lower profits and revenue for successive years.
“New chief executive, Henry Faure Walker, has a lot of ground to make up in restoring morale and confidence in management. The best way to start will be to make sure staff get a decent pay rise in in 2014. Our chapels will be reminding him of that very loudly, I’m sure.”

Gannett UK accounts 2013
Newsquest reports 11 per cent fall in profits

Tags: , newsquest, paul davidson, Henry Faure Walker, pay, tuc, accounts, executive pay