INM names Robert Pitt as its new chief executive

The 43-year-old has held senior roles in the retail sector

A graduate of University College Dublin, with a BA in Economics, the father of four was chief operations officer at Tesco in the Czech Republic from May 2012 onwards

A graduate of University College Dublin, with a BA in Economics, the father of four was chief operations officer at Tesco in the Czech Republic from May 2012 onwards

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 07:31

Robert Pitt has been appointed as the new chief executive of Independent News & Media (INM), replacing Vincent Crowley who retired in May.

Mr Pitt (43), who will take up the new role in the autumn, has held a number of senior roles in the supermarket retail sector in Eastern Europe over the past 20 years, working for Lidl and Tesco.

INM chairman Leslie Buckley welcomed Mr Pitt to the company. “The news publishing sector faces many challenges and Robert Pitt, whose extensive experience includes change-management and digital strategy, is well equipped to lead INM into the future,” he said.

A graduate of University College Dublin, with a BA degree in Economics, Mr Pitt, a married father of four, was most recently chief operations officer at Tesco in the Czech Republic from May 2012 onwards.

Mr Pitt first emigrated to the Czech Republic in 1993. In an interview with The Irish Times in 2012, he said “I just thought, why not?” of his move. While studying economic history at UCD, the emergence of the EU and the fall of communism had piqued his interest.

He worked in the construction industry at first, “rebuilding apartments and sleeping on the construction site in half-reconstructed apartments” - an experience he described as “fun, interesting and exciting”.

But after a meeting with an Irish head of the tax and legal department at consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers in Prague, Mr Pitt ditched the hard hat for a business suit and joined PwC. He helped put a risk management policy in place at the company and stayed for two years before leaving to set up a joint venture in Beijing.

He returned to Ireland in the late 1990s, where he assisted in the establishment of German discounter Lidl in this market. The Dubliner, whose wife is from the Czech Republic, then moved back to Prague to help Lidl establish operations in that country and in Slovakia. He was later headhunted by Tesco, initially becoming managing director for its franchise stores, known as Zabka.

He joins INM almost a year after a major debt restructuring process at the media group and at a time when it is shifting its business from print to digital. In its most recent trading update to investors, INM said total revenues declined 2.8 per cent between January 1st and May 16th compared to the same period last year.

Since Mr Crowley departed the company in May after a two-year stint as chief executive, INM has been run by a sub-committee of its board comprising Leslie Buckley - a long-term business associate of the media group’s largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien - as well as non-executive directors Triona Mullane, Allan Marshall and Terry Buckley.

Mr Pitt is likely to have some contact with his predecessor, as Mr Crowley was last week appointed chairman of the industry representative group National Newspapers of Ireland.