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Monday, July 07, 2008

Never Mind the Strategy Lets Reorganise the Management Team

Well, it no longer matters whether Gary Hughes, the CEO of CMPi has or hasn't understood what to do next as we were postulating a couple of weeks ago. He has been fired. Well, made redundant. CEO of UBM, David Levin has split the CMPi business into four chunks, just as he did with the CMP business in the USA, with the heads of each reporting to him directly. So thats four direct reports from the US, five from the UK (I'll come back to why its five) plus his head office reports which must at least include his CFO plus the Asia business. When I went to school we were told that you should never have more than six direct reports. I reckon Levin must have north of ten direct reports. That's a tough and some would say disfunctional structure.

But does this make any real sense? Go back a hundred years and Morgan Grampian/Miller Freeman, the precursor to CMPi, used to believe in "market focus". In his recent interview with Press Gazette, Hughes said,

"We like markets rather than media formats. We like to be in markets and then work out how to make money in that market rather than say here are magazines and websites, [now] make money even though you have no face-to-face assets.” A bit of a bugger than he hadn't understood the implications of his boss's change to the structure of the US business.

Serve the market. Customer first, product second is the mantra of the market focus advocate. There is a bit of this left with all the Built Environment assets grouped together under Jonathan Newby. Then there is a conference division, which is mostly events and some publishing; the Live Media Division, which is mostly events, and then there is the rest of the publishing stuff which includes Music Week and Daltons Weekly run by the CMPi CFO. No mention is made of Publican or TTG, which seems odd.

So what if Music Week wants to run a conference, where would that fit? What if an exhibiton idea evolves from a conference? Where is the focus on digital and who will make that happen? Remember my turkey analogy?

There has also been speculation that UBM, flushed away from the proposed merger with Informa, is a candidate to buy ITE and/or Centaur. Now that is interesting in that ITE is an events business with most of its activity in Eastern Europe, so it fits. Centaur has seen its market value collapse despite growing profits. It is now worth less than 5 times its EBITDA. No doubt Centaur execs think this is unfair, but there has been little revenue growth of late, they are very exposed to the advertising cycle and if they have a strategy it is hard to discern.

An irony in the history would be that Graham Sherren, founder of Centaur, was the MD of Morgan Grampian, which became Miller Freeman, which became CMPi. In fact so was his Dad. Also Centaur owns The Engineer which was sold to Centaur by CMPi (then Miller Freeman) some ten years ago.

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