Bailey Charms Tweedy Out of 'Sell Mirror' Mindset

16 September 2003

New York investment firm Tweedy Browne has been temporarily diverted from hounding Hollinger's Lord Conrad Black for his seigneurial corporate manner and alleged diversion of shareholders' cash [WAMN: 02-Sep-03].

Instead, according to the Financial Times, Tweedy has been inserting its proboscis into the affairs of the UK’s largest newspaper group Trinity Mirror, in which it has a 6% stake. This, Tweedy believed entitled it to demand that Trinity sell-off its national newspapers, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and The People – in particular the first-named.

Although profitable, the three titles’ performance has been overshadowed of late by TM’s regional publications. But new ceo Sly Bailey has used her legendary powers of persuasion on the hard-nosed New Yorkers – an ability never more in evidence than in her previous job as ceo of IPC Media when she charmed £1.15 billion in cash out of AOL Time Warner [WAMN: -26-Jul-01].

Trinity has doughtily resisted Tweedy’s demands, and it now seems the latter has backtracked after discussing the matter with Bailey. She successfully defended her strategy to retain the national titles and unlock their “hidden potential for growth”.

The Manhattan moneymen were also appeased by her promise to slash 550 jobs and sell TM’s Northern Ireland titles – but foremostly perhaps by the fact that in August The Mirror edged back above the psychologically important two million daily sales mark.

Said a tamed Tweedy Browne managing partner Thomas Shrager: “ I was quite sceptical, but I believe Ms Bailey is doing everything by the book. The general appearance of The Mirror has been more fun. She went and talked to lapsed readers and asked why they had stopped buying the paper.”

Bailey is no slouch at telling the moneymen what they want to hear: “We're here for the shareholders,” she told the world recently. “The board regularly reviews the best way to do that, operationally and structurally.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff