Guardian publisher kicks off hunt for successor to veteran chair Berkett

·2-min read

The publisher of The Guardian newspaper has kicked off a search for a successor to its veteran chairman months after its boss warned of “an unsustainable financial outlook” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sky News has learnt that Guardian Media Group (GMG) has appointed The Inzito Partnership, a leading search firm, to find a replacement for Neil Berkett.

Mr Berkett, a former chief executive of Virgin Media, a member of GMG's board since 2009, has served as the organisation's chairman for nearly eight years.

Sources said on Tuesday that the search process was at an early stage and that an announcement about a successor could be several months away.

Under Mr Berkett's stewardship, GMG has raised hundreds of millions of pounds from the disposal of its stakes in Trader Media Group, Auto Trader's owner, in 2014, and Ascential, the group behind the Cannes Lions advertising festival, in 2017.

The group, which channels any profit it makes to The Scott Trust, its sole shareholder, has been battling financial headwinds for years.

After hitting a target to break even and end years of financial losses in 2019, it announced last summer that it was axing nearly 200 jobs.

Annette Thomas, GMG's chief executive, and Kath Viner, The Guardian's editor-in-chief, said the group faced "unsustainable financial losses in future years" without a fresh round of restructuring.

In addition to The Guardian and its Sunday sister title, The Observer, GMG's portfolio includes a venture capital arm which has invested in about 20 start-ups.

GMG's sole shareholder is the Scott Trust, which was established in 1936 to ensure the permanent independence of the group's newspaper titles.

A GMG spokesman declined to comment on the hunt for a new chairman.