Alan Rusbridger resigns from owner of ‘Guardian’

Newspaper economics require ‘dramatically changed solutions’, says former editor

Alan Rusbridger: “We all currently do our journalism in the teeth of a force 12 digital hurricane,” Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Alan Rusbridger: “We all currently do our journalism in the teeth of a force 12 digital hurricane,” Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

 

Alan Rusbridger has resigned from the trust that owns the Guardian after other directors raised concerns about his continuing influence at the lossmaking newspaper that he edited for 20 years.

Mr Rusbridger told staff on Thursday in an email that newspapers’ economic difficulties would require “dramatically changed solutions”.

He will no longer take up a role as chair of the Scott Trust in September as had been announced last year, and will also resign as a member of the trust, which is the sole owner of the Guardian’s parent company.  

This is the latest symptom of strain in the newspaper industry, with titles suffering from a sharper-than-expected fall in print advertising as media agencies shift spending to Facebook, Google and other online players. 

In his email, Mr Rusbridger said newspapers had been “battered by turbulent and economic forces that were difficult to foresee last summer”, when he left as editor. “We all currently do our journalism in the teeth of a force 12 digital hurricane,” he said. 

The Guardian, which under Mr Rusbridger built one of the world’s most popular newspaper websites and won a Pulitzer Prize for public service, lost £58.6 million in the year to March. Although its parent company Guardian Media Group had an investment fund of £740 million as of January the returns have been outstripped by the losses. 

Under a plan announced in January, the Guardian will cut 250 jobs and seek to reduce costs by 20 per cent.  

Since the financial woes became clear, criticism has mounted of the decision to elevate Mr Rusbridger to lead the Scott Trust with only a limited recruitment process. 

Opponents argued that it was poor corporate governance for a key executive to become chair of board.

Mr Rusbridger’s successor as editor, Kath Viner, and GMG’s chief executive David Pemsel advocated a clean break and that he should step aside. By this week some of those who approved Mr Rusbridger’s elevation changed their minds, a person familiar with the situation said. 

– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016)