Tuesday 26 September 2017

Killeen to take hands-on role in Business Post after Cooke's shock exit

Paul Cooke made his departure from the Sunday Business Post this week. Photo: Fennells
Paul Cooke made his departure from the Sunday Business Post this week. Photo: Fennells
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Key Capital chief executive Conor Killeen will have a hands-on role in the commercial direction of the Sunday Business Post (SBP) newspaper after the shock departure of managing director Paul Cooke during the week.

Killeen and Key's chief operations officer Colin Morgan will lead the executive committee of the new entity arising out of the merger of the SBP and Cork-based printing firm Webprint. SBP editor Ian Kehoe and Webprint managing director Donagh O'Doherty will also be on the board.

Killeen, Morgan and the newspaper's relatively young existing senior management team face a major challenge amid an industry-wide trend of falling newspaper sales and volatile advertising revenue. Killeen plans to develop the newspaper in areas like conferencing, and leverage existing competencies within the paper in the area of production to provide services to printing firm Webprint's clients.

The departure of Cooke - one of Ireland's most experienced newspaper executives - is the latest in a number of high-profile exits from the newspaper, with stalwarts deputy editor Pat Leahy and magazine editor Fiona Ness leaving in recent months.

Cooke sold his stake in the company behind the SBP to Key as part of his exit and said he was "moving on to new challenges".

"I believe we have achieved more with the paper in the past three years than anyone would have thought possible and I look forward to its continued growth and success for years to come," he said. "Ireland needs a strong, independent media and the turnaround at the Sunday Business Post should encourage everyone in the industry," he added.

The SBP recorded a circulation of 32,162 in the period from July to December 2015, a decline of 3.2pc on the same period in 2014.

It made a modest profit of €78,801 last year but is facing a squeeze as media consumption switches from print to online. The newspaper recently overhauled its website and Killeen plans to roll out new digital offerings to readers. He has previously invested in the sports news website Balls.ie.

Key Capital is the majority owner of both Webprint and the SBP and believes they will be stronger as a combined entity, with Killeen saying his priority is development and growth.

"We are pleased with the progress both businesses have made since we acquired them. There has been noticeable improvement in content and financial performance at the Sunday Business Post since it emerged from examinership three years ago," he said. "Webprint is responding to a new vitality, as it too has emerged from a period of excessive debt," Killeen added.

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