Belfast Telegraph

Chairman of newspaper publishers Johnson Press steps down

The chairman of newspaper publisher Johnston Press is to step down due to an "acute illness" in the family.

Ian Russell said he would leave the role by the end of December this year, with senior independent director Camilla Rhodes taking the helm as interim chairman.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: "I'd like to thank Ian for his tireless work on behalf of Johnston Press, first as a non-executive director and, since 2009, as chairman.

"His guidance and advice have been invaluable to me and his board colleagues throughout that time and he will leave with our warmest best wishes."

The owner of the i newspaper, The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post said the hunt for a permanent successor had now begun.

The group recently confirmed that it was in ''late stage'' talks to sell ''certain titles'' to Iliffe Media.

It followed reports that the firm was in negotiations with Iliffe about the possible sale of its East Anglian brands, including the Newmarket Journal and Suffolk Free Press.

Last month, Johnston Press reported that total group revenues were down 5.1% year-on-year in the 17 weeks to October 29, as it continues to grapple with the tough advertising market.

However, circulation revenues rose 18.8% over the period, with the i paper increasing its slice of the quality newspaper market from 18.5% to more than a fifth.

Sales of the 50p title grew by 4.6% to an average of 290,000 copies per day in September, while the firm said overall group trading had picked up since the Brexit vote.

Media companies have been looking to offset a slide in newspaper sales by selling more adverts online. Johnston Press acquired the i in April, when its average audited circulation was 270,182.