Desmond begins picking apart Five

Richard Desmond, the new owner of Channel Five, has made his presence felt by beginning a staff cull with the intention to cut £20million from the business.

In what one unnamed MediaGuardian source is describing as a “bloodbath” of cuts, up to 80 employees out of 300 will lose their jobs.

Seven of the nine executive board directors are to leave, including chairman and chief executive Dawn Airey, despite Five’s attempts to keep her from moving on. Instead, she will join the previous owner of Five, RTL – which owns Talkback Thames – later in the year, after helping integrate Five with Desmond’s Northern & Shell.

Only two members of the board will survive the cull – (current) managing director of digital channels and acquisitions Jeff Ford, and sales director Kelly Williams.

Ford will replace Richard Woolfe as channel controller, while others departing include managing director Mark White, director of legal affairs Paul Chinnery, corporate affairs director Sue Robertson, director of strategy Charles Constable and finance director David Hockley.

Employees will also be relocated to Northern & Shell’s premises on Lower Thames Street in the City and Docklands, where back office functions between the two companies will be merged.

Despite the heavy cuts, Desmond has promised to invest over £300million over the next five years into the flagging broadcaster, even going so far as to say that Five will “go toe-to-toe with the biggest players in the TV world”.

Indeed, if Desmond can reach his target of cutting the £20million loss, then MediaGuardian reckons the broadcaster could return to profitability, albeit on a skeleton staff.

Desmond is no stranger when it comes to substantial cuts. After purchasing Express Newspapers, he set about axing 130 journalists in 2001, and has continued draining the work force out of the company since.

Five is also used to uncompromising cuts. In 2009 Airey spearheaded the culling of one in four jobs at the beleaguered broadcaster.

(Source: MediaGuardian)

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