Mirror Greets Bailey: ‘Hi, Sly, Speculators Want to Buy’

03 February 2003

When Sylvia Grice reports this morning for her first day as chief executive at Trinity Mirror, Britain’s largest newspaper group, she’ll find herself overshadowed by speculation that the group could be up for grabs.

Grice, better known as Sly Bailey, the former chief executive of IPC Media, had been made aware of the takeover discussions with a consortium of venture capitalists led by Apax Partners and Candover which were terminated in December by TM on grounds that their £4.50 ($7.39; €6.90) per share offer undervalued the business.

However, at 08.07 London time this morning, TM shares stood at £3.885, leading media observers to predict a new flurry of takeover interest – and not only from the former suitors. Said a Trinity spokesperson on Sunday: “If there’s to be any serious offer from any source the board would consider it.”

Second in the pile in Bailey’s in-tray is the £500,000-plus claim for damages and loss of earnings brought against TM by Ric Piper, who had been due to start work in October as finance director.

Just one day before his arrival, Piper learned that his services were no longer required, TM citing as its reason a profits warning issued by his former employer W S Atkins. The alert sent Atkins’ stock into a 72% freefall and caused such nervous convulsions at Trinity Mirror that it reversed the hiring on grounds that it constituted an “element of reputational risk to us”.

Piper, however, rejected TM’s compensatory offer of a year's salary and bonus – believed to be in the region of £367,000 – as insufficient in the circumstances.

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