What’s next for Haymarket Media?

For almost 50 years, Haymarket has been an innovative force in specialist magazines, exhibitions, content marketing, and information services. It is the UK-based media company responsible for: Campaign, Marketing, Media Week, Autocar, What Car, Horticulture Week, FourFourTwo, Autosport, Brand Republic, Pistonheads, Practical Caravan, What HiFi, Motorsport News, and F1 Racing. It claims 72 market-leading brands in six countries and employs some 1,600 people, one-third outside the UK.

The company is still owned by its founder, Michael (now Lord) Heseltine, the former UK Deputy Prime Minister. The charismatic centre-right politician was nicknamed “Tarzan” after he waved the parliament’s ceremonial mace above his head in noisy protest at his opponents. Neither Heseltine nor his company have ever been lacking in confidence or energy.

Heseltine: xxx

Heseltine: a powerful career

Haymarket’s roots were in the “Directory of Opportunities for Graduates” published in 1957 by Heseltine and an Oxford University friend Clive Labovitch. It consisted of text entries paid for by potential employers. The first edition had 169 paid pages and was followed by the “Directory of Opportunities for School Leavers” and the “Directory of Opportunities for Qualified Men” (it was the 1950s).

The successful venture gave the two friends some of the cash but all of the confidence to expand their publishing horizons. Heseltine abandoned his accounting studies as their company Cornmarket relaunched the fashionable Town magazine. It became influential in the awakening London of the early 1960s, with a star-studded cast of writers and photographers including Lawrence Durrell, Kingsley Amis, Michael Parkinson, Terence Donovan and David Bailey. It made a huge splash – but no profits.

The company also failed with its relaunch of the British news weekly Topic, which they bought with a borrowed £50k (the equivalent of £750k today). It folded after just three months.

The two business partners split in 1966. Heseltine named his half of the business “Haymarket Publishing” (renamed Haymarket Media in 2007) to publish Town (until it closed in 1968) and Management Today which – inspired by Time Inc’s Fortune – sought to combine serious business writing with the look and feel of a luxury consumer magazine.

Management Today: Consumer meets business

Consumer style for business

A sense of style

Management Today was full of flair, good writing and innovative design: a taste of what was to come from the fledgling company. Over the next 10 years, Haymarket was fizzing with magazine launches and acquisitions: Campaign, Practical Caravan, GP, Autosport, Accountancy Age, What Car?, Computing, Horticulture Week, and What HiFi?

But Heseltine  – who has always invested in property as well as media – was directly running the company for only the first five years. Having been elected a UK Member of Parliament in 1966, he became a government minister in 1970.

He duly put his shares into a family trust and handed over Haymarket’s management for most of the succeeding 27 years to Lindsay Masters as chairman and Simon Tindall, as managing director. It was the start of one of the UK’s most turbulent decades for politics and business. But Heseltine could never have imagined how successful the company would become in his absence.

Profiles of the rising political star told of a self-made millionaire who had built one of the country’s most successful magazine groups before going into parliament. But, although he had set the company up for its future success, the stories were err ahead of their time.

A Heseltine biographer described his “totally chaotic business” coming close to bankruptcy in 1962 when borrowings reached the then extraordinary £250k, as a result of magazine and residential property losses. Haymarket had taken on its share of the Cornmarket debts and was financially fragile for several years. But the energetic founder kept his nerve and the company made its first real profit (£136k) in 1969. It so nearly didn’t happen.

Town: a debut failure

Town: star quality losses

Rescued by the printer

Haymarket’s prospects were ultimately transformed by an amazing three-stage deal with the British Printing Corporation (the sprawling print group that would later be rescued by Robert Maxwell). It started as a 1964 rescue deal to give BPC a 49% share in Haymarket in lieu of the publisher’s mounting print debts. By 1967, BPC injected a further £150k into the business, increased its shareholding to 60% and – best of all – merged Haymarket with BPC’s own magazines which included Autosport, World’s Press News, and the long-forgotten Carpet News Weekly, Practical Scooter & Moped, and the Scrap Trade Directory.

In addition to cancelling its debt, the deal doubled Haymarket’s size, gave it the cash to grow and provided subsidised printing. But there was more. BPC provided £250k to buy the MIMS medical directory and GP fortnightly newspaper. So, what had started as a rescue of the debt-laden publisher eventually became a launch-pad for rapid expansion. Not for the first or last time, Michael Heseltine had played a blinder in his on-the-brink negotiations.

Then, in 1970, when BPC itself ran into trouble, he and some banks bought back its shares for just £1m, a low price but “BPC needed all the money it could get”. The shareholding banks also lent Haymarket £800k. The company was on its way, Heseltine was again the majority shareholder – and the newspaper stories about the “self-made multi-millionaire” began in earnest and slowly became true.

In 1969, he had come up with the idea of Accountancy Age, a weekly newspaper which recouped all its launch costs in four weeks, just before he left to became a government minister. By 1973, the fast-growing publisher was riding high on its way to an IPO. Its profits had been doubling each year and had been expected to reach £1m. But the Middle East oil crisis caused a stock market collapse and, as Heseltine said later, “we abandoned the flotation…and all of us who were shareholders have been profoundly grateful ever since.”

The company was always opportunistic. In 1981, it sold the recruitment-rich weekly newspapers Accountancy Age and Computing to the Dutch publisher VNU for £17m. The papers accounted for about one-third of the company and most of the proceeds were used to pay-off borrowings. To anybody who believed the stories about Haymarket’s huge financial success, it was a surprising divestment. But, finally, the founder was in good financial shape. And so was his company.

Masters: Haymarket boss for 27 years

Masters: Haymarket boss for 27 years

Haymarket people were ultra-competitive, creative and hungry for success. They were a bumpy mix of posh Brits and young tigers who used the best designers, journalists and sales people. The excitement flowed from distinctive magazines, celebration parties and a world where Simon Tindall would call in his 10 favourite staffers of the moment and treat them to dinner in the fashionable Kensington Place restaurant followed by an England international football match at Wembley.

Amazing partnership

Masters (who spent his evenings listening to jazz in bohemian Chelsea clubs) and Tindall, who was steeped in horse racing, were an unlikely but amazingly successful partnership. Their divergent leadership styles were defined by the way that the stubborn, determined Masters out-stared errant executives through long pauses, while the urbane Tindall admonished them gently with “You really have been a chump”.

The contrasts continued through images of the smart-suited Tindall and Masters in dark glasses with “weird shirts and tight trousers”. Masters never owned a briefcase but shuffled into meetings with his papers stuffed into supermarket bags. Legendary fashion designer Mary Quant described her Chelsea near-neighbour, as “the most original, lovable character, with the eye of an artist, the mind of a tycoon and the walk of Buster Keaton”.

A worldwide hit since 1950

A worldwide hit since 1950

For all Haymarket’s passion and style, Masters remained focused on the basics. His use of telesales was almost revolutionary in UK magazines at the time. Advertising space selling had traditionally been all about making face-to-face calls in company-paid cars. He had studied what he regarded as the laid-back, over-paid sales teams at Reed International where a series of 1960s mergers had created a huge UK conglomerate of magazines, books and directories. It was a perfect enemy for the dynamic newcomer.

Haymarket’s first telesales manager was one Josephine Hart who later became a best-selling novelist and playwright. Masters said: “She made the grinding business of tele-ad-selling fun for the staff, but was deadly effective at the same time. I promised her an extra salesman for every extra page she sold and, within a short time, she had a staff of 14 or so.”

That was the start of an era during which the company recruited the brightest and best graduates from group interviews of six candidates at a time. The edgy process shocked competitors but did not deter applicants.

B2B jobs boom

It was a time when weekly B2B magazines in the UK were starting to generate more than 50% of their revenues (and all of their profit) from the booming market for national recruitment advertising. Almost one-third of it came from central and local government. Publishing entrepreneur Graham Sherren (who subsequently launched Marketing Week against Campaign) said at the time: “Few people realise there are more than 100 British trade magazines which make over £1m profit a year.” Consumer magazines were also hot.

Haymarket came to dominate innovation in UK motoring magazines in the same way as EMAP did in music. In both, the big losers were established magazines from IPC-Reed. But the two “new” companies were always potential rivals in sports, motoring and photography magazines. Haymarket executives spent months trying to find a way to launch against EMAP’s most profitable publication, Motor Cycle News. MCN’s archaic newspaper format and its dominance of relatively low-cost classified ads provided a surprisingly effective barrier to competitors. But that format came back to haunt EMAP.

Autocar: fought off EMAP

Autocar: fought off EMAP

In 1993, Haymarket was panicked by EMAP’s decision to launch against Autocar. It was, though, followed by relief that the new competitor would not be a magazine at all but a tabloid newspaper – like MCN. The strange decision was reinforced by newsagent shelf-stickers alongside Autocar and other magazines, pointing down to the copies of Car Week, alongside other newspapers, at the bottom of the rack.

To Haymarket’s relief, the new weekly failed and was closed 18 months after launch, with a circulation of just 40,000 and losses of more than £7m. But the two companies remained united by their rivalry with the mighty IPC. In 1988, they formed the Frontline magazine distribution partnership whose improved retail terms immediately increased Haymarket’s newsstand revenues by more than 10%.

It was an almost hidden part of the Haymarket success, which can best be told through the prism of its four most famous brands:

 1. Campaign

The company’s publishing breakthrough came with the transformation of World’s Press News, described by Michael Heseltine as “a classically awful trade magazine”, which had come from BPC. Its relaunch in 1968 as Campaign was sensational. It focused on advertising and media with what was then a radical design: news on the front page like a newspaper, but printed on glossy paper with magazine-like big pictures.

Campaign: sensational launch in 1968

Campaign: A sensational launch

The large page-size was inspired by Advertising Age, in the US, and the overall style echoed the UK’s pace-setting Sunday Times Business News. The iconic design (much imitated by other publishers over the years) had clean lines and strong black-and-white photography. Campaign (“champagne” to envious rivals) became one of the first business-to-business magazines to eschew PR mug-shots and employed a photographer to take all the news pictures, most often of people on fire escapes looking wind-blown and worried – but real.

Campaign made its mark during 20 years when the UK advertising industry was buzzing with the talents of Alan Parker, David Bailey, Ridley Scott, Frank Lowe, Hugh Hudson, John Hegarty – and the Saatchi brothers. Maurice Saatchi had been working as an assistant to Lindsay Masters for three years, during which he played a key role not on Campaign but on the launch of Accountancy Age. He and his advertising-experienced brother Charles launched Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in the summer of 1970. Right from the start, its success was closely tied to the rising fortunes of Campaign.

Masters led a group of fashionable and influential Londoners including Mary Quant, who financed the shiny new advertising agency. Their investment company Cannon Holdings provided the £25k start-up capital and became the third largest shareholder (after the Saatchi brothers) with 15%. They actually recouped their investment four times over in just two years.

Meanwhile, despite the chairman’s involvement, Haymarket routinely denied that it was an investor in Saatchi & Saatchi. That didn’t stop competitors from describing Campaign as the Saatchi ‘house magazine’. A Sunday Times advertisement announcing the new agency was written by the Management Today editor.

It all seemed like good fun as Campaign’s journalists came to admire the Saatchi genius for spin and “news management”. Despite an image of publicity-shyness and elusiveness, Charles Saatchi spent large amounts of time with Campaign, planting positive stories about Saatchi & Saatchi and sending champagne to journalists.

The magazine played a crucial role in building the brand of the new agency, not least by knowingly publishing exaggerated claims of the size of its contracts. The relationship was so strong that, on one occasion in 1975, Campaign even published a day early in order to break news of the Saatchi reverse takeover of advertising giant Compton. Saatchi & Saatchi became the world’s largest advertising agency and Campaign become the flagship of one of the UK’s hottest media companies.

Campaign pioneered awards nights

Campaign pioneered awards nights

The magazine was a pioneer in the awards ceremonies that today are a staple profit-earner of media everywhere. The Campaign Press (now Media) Awards, launched in 1973, were imitated by hundreds of awards nights promoted by Haymarket and other publishers everywhere. The company now organises more than 30 profitable awards events across its consumer and B2B markets.

Campaign’s circulation in 2015 is 5,000 – a third of its peak. But its wholly-owned digital services have expanded into Asia, India and the US. Partnerships have also taken it into the Middle East and Turkey. These – like the Brand Republic grouping of Campaign, Media Week, Marketing and PR Week – are high-quality web sites. One of its smartest developments has been Spikes Asia, an annual festival joint venture with Cannes Lions.

2. What Car?

The monthly magazine was launched in 1973 to use group road tests as backbone content aimed not so much at enthusiasts as people who wanted to buy cars. Arguably, it was the first of its kind. Despite the halving of its print circulation to 60k in the past 10 years, it represents the most striking evidence that Haymarket could become a formidable digital media group. It is six years since the What Car? publisher stunned his peers at a London conference by disclosing that not only was the What Car? web site profitable but that it made more profit than the (still pretty strong) print magazine. Now, it is the company’s most profitable brand.

It generates substantial digital revenues from advertising and sales leads for people and companies selling cars, finance and insurance. It was quick to exploit the web and, in 1997, supplied content to the once so powerful AOL. Then, it acquired Car Shop,  a touch-screen kiosk, where consumers could browse through information about cars, compare them, watch video presentations and even purchase them. The service had been launched by the Camden Motors car dealer group, in London.

It had planned, with British Telecom to install terminals in UK shopping centres and high streets, and Sky pay TV carried Car Shop as a used car channel on its ‘red button’ interactive text service. The web site had been an afterthought. But Haymarket recognised the significance of the traffic growth and the positive feedback to the Car Shop site.

It was re-branded as What Car? and the made its first profit in 2002. The following year, it added video road tests which, with a weekly video podcast, now dominate the site.

The magazine’s Car of the Year awards were launched in 1978. In recent years, the magazine has launched new services for car valuations, assessments of cars’ “true fuel consumption” and a “What Car Approved Used” buying service.

3. MIMS

Medical publishing has been a core Haymarket business since it acquired MIMS (“Monthly Index of Medical Specialities”) in 1964. It is a quarterly directory of, and digital reference to, medicines for healthcare professionals. It has been published alongside the fortnightly GP newspaper and related clinical and medical education services. That news brand is now going “digital only”  after some highly-profitable decades swollen by a pharmaceutical advertising boom.

MIMS: A solid earner for xx years

MIMS: Solid earner for 65 years

It was this sector which took the company into the US, where it launched a version of MIMS, the MPR (“Monthly Prescribing Reference”) in 1985. Thirty years on, it’s still going strong in what increasingly looks like Haymarket’s most promising B2B business.

It recently acquired digital communications agency Group DCA, as the publisher continued to extend its reach with healthcare providers. Haymarket said: “This is a pivotal time in professional media, as we continue to transform our medical communications company from a legacy print publisher to a medical digital communications firm. We’re working off the strength of our trusted portfolio of brands to offer solutions-oriented clinical content.”

4. Pistonheads

Pistonheads is the online automotive news and classifieds site with more than 4m monthly uniques. That is almost five times the level when it was acquired in 2007 for a fraction of the price that private equity and digital specialists might have paid. It was a steal of a deal. Haymarket was euphoric: “The website will represent the third pillar of Haymarket’s motoring business. It is a brilliant online community for anyone who is mad about cars, where they can communicate with like-minded enthusiasts as well as share their experiences and offer each other advice.”

That remains the story of Pistonheads, whose high-margin profits come from advertising that is largely linked to low-price content, i.e. reader forums. This hugely successful digital brand is arguably Haymarket’s best acquisition for years and – with What Car? –  one of the company’s two most profitable brands.

At this year’s £2.4bn IPO of AutoTrader, investment analysts identified Pistonheads as its nearest competitor. AutoTrader, which had been owned by The Guardian and private equity, remains the outstanding UK example of a once-powerful print product that has become even more dominant digitally, now generating profits of £130m. But, whether Pistonheads can emulate it is anyone’s guess.

Pistonheads: steal of a deal

Pistonheads: steal of a deal

The UK market has seen several companies recently failing to match AutoTrader, including News Corp and the RAC. But this is clearly a major opportunity for Haymarket, 50% of whose current profits may come from Pistonheads – and are probably equal to the total price paid for this great brand.

That’s a significant triumph for executives who can be forgiven for boasting about it. By contrast, the struggling Caravan Site Finder – which the company acquired for the same price and on the same day in 2007 – is almost forgotten.

Going global

But the biggest change at Haymarket came 10 years before the Pistonheads acquisition, when Michael Heseltine returned from politics to become chairman. Having been the UK’s ministerial boss of world trade, he was now a man on a mission to internationalise his company. At the time, more than 95% of profits came from the UK. But, within a few years, it had assembled a network of some 100 international editions of its magazines, which now include: Stuff (in 25 markets), Autosport (6), F1 Racing(25), Autocar (16), and What Car? (2). At the same time, it made acquisitions in Germany, China, South East Asia, India and the US. In 1999, it became one of the first magazine publishers to enter the Indian market ahead of the 2004 repeal of laws which had previously prohibited foreign media ownership.

By 2004, some 14% of Haymarket’s revenue was coming from outside the UK. And, in 2011, everybody could see what had motivated Heseltine’s global ambition: Recession and the digital defection of classified revenues saw the company’s UK revenues fall to £139.2m – 25% down in six years – while non-UK revenues reached £79.4m (36% of the total).

Heseltine: man on a global mission

Heseltine: a global mission

For the year to June 2014, total turnover was £187m – 18% down on 2005, but international revenues were £67m (36% of the total), with almost two-thirds coming from the US. But profit margins now set the agenda. The still dominant UK made pre-tax profits of £10.7m (9% margin), the US made £2.8m (7%) and the rest of the world (Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Germany) made an aggregate loss of £2.4m. But now things get trickier.

UK specialist publishers like Haymarket, Dennis and Future have had some great years collecting high-margin revenues from networks of licensees which pay royalties to re-use high-quality content in their own booming magazine markets. But the neat separation of national editions has started to break down with the shift to the web, even though some publishing markets (like India) are still growing.

However, Haymarket’s US operation – with its B2B focus on media-marketing, medical, and data security – looks stronger than ever. It is expected to extend its run of three consecutive years of revenue and profit growth and soon to account for more than 25% of group revenues.

Under pressure

Whether profitable or not, some of Haymarket’s non-UK brands look distinctly random and include, for example, Asian financial media that have no obvious links with its UK or US operations. International investments (especially in the US) have clearly helped to compensate for the UK decline. But it’s more complicated than that.

Haymarket’s 2014 pre-tax profits of £11.1m seemed like a bounce-back from the losses of £7.6m in the previous 18 months and prompted eloquent words from Lord Heseltine: “These figures are a testament to the continued operating strength of the group, the benefits of our recapitalisation in recent years and a prudent approach to managing our property and asset portfolio. As a result, Haymarket is well positioned to harness growth opportunities amid an improving economic outlook in its core UK and US markets.”

The company emphasised the growth of digital and events revenue, pointing out that print accounted for just 48% of revenues (down from 53% the previous year). But, like media companies everywhere, the figures cannot disguise that digital revenues are growing too slowly to compensate for the print decline. Over the last decade, the company has lost large volumes of high-margin classified print revenues to digital specialists. And it gets worse.

FourFourTwo:

FourFourTwo: success in 17 countries

The 2014 trading results figures were actually disguised by profits of £17m from the £27m sale of the company’s former West London offices. But for that windfall, it would have been another loss-making year. It’s a very long way from 2007 when profits peaked at £44m. So, although What Car? and Pistonheads together probably made as much profit as the Haymarket total, the overall performance is piling on the pressure.

One key problem has has been the series of transactions with which Michael Heseltine and his family bought back the 49% of shares held by Lindsay Masters, Simon Tindall and long-time Finance Director David Fraser – for a total price of more than £100m.

Those buy-backs, international investments, weak trading, successive redundancy and relocation plans, and expensive failures like the women’s magazine Eve have weighed down the company with debt for almost 10 years. Uncharacteristically, the privately-owned Haymarket has been forced to issue annual statements about borrowings because of inevitable speculation about its viability. And, last year, it didn’t pay a dividend to shareholders – for the first time in a decade.

A mountain of debt

Overall borrowings, which peaked at more than £130m, were reduced last year from £127m to £88m, principally through property disposals. The previous year, it had also cut debt with property sales and divestment to the Wilmington Group of the US-based Compliance Week. That year, it paid more than £16m in interest charges.

In 2015, Haymarket has announced the sale – for £85m – of its 4.5-acre river-side headquarters in Teddington, Surrey, which it bought 10 years ago. The deal was struck after the company was granted planning permission for homes to be built on the site. The transaction is due to complete this year and will virtually eliminate the company’s borrowings during 2016. Official filings show that it had been forced to put up £40m worth of property – including Lord Heseltine’s 18th-century home and 55-acre estate in Northamptonshire – as security in debt negotiations with its bank. These are the signs that the UK’s 2009-12 recession, which helped to accelerate the systemic decline in print media, was much more painful for Haymarket because of its borrowings.

Moreover, those share re-purchases tell the story of a company which, even relatively recently, was valued at more than £200m. But things have changed. Magazine companies would now be unlikely to attract a valuation of more than 5-6 times annual pre-tax profits – at best. So, Haymarket would need to be making profits of £35m – and at margins of more than 10% –  to be worth anything like the £200m on which those share buy-backs were based. Even with windfall property gains, it hasn’t made profits like that for almost 10 years. But wiping out the debt means the company will soon be able to concentrate on securing its long-term profitability.

Heseltine familySunday Telegraph

Michael & Rupert Heseltine: “Your turn now” (Sunday Telegraph)

Taxable profits are not always a reliable barometer for private companies without external shareholders. But the 2014 disclosure that the delayed final instalment of the £39m purchase of Simon Tindall’s shares had been negotiated down from £16m to £10m shows it has been struggling.

Haymarket has thrived through creativity and innovation. The publisher of Campaign and Brand Republic understood brands before most publishers even used the word to describe their “titles”. In its prime sectors like motoring and media-marketing-communications, it has consistently been the thought leader – even when the financials were under pressure.

Time for change

It is difficult not to agree with Michael Heseltine’s assessment of Haymarket as “an admired and innovative publishing business that helped to change the face of British publishing.” But, similarly, nobody disputes that life is now much more challenging than in the golden days of the 20th century when readers and advertisers loved magazines to the exclusion of much else. Now there is so much else.

What HiFi: xxx

What HiFi: 1.6m worldwide readers

The problem for print-centric companies lies in their frequent inability to monetise even quite substantial digital audiences. So, magazines and newspapers console themselves by holding on, as best they can, to print profits while building (unprofitable) digital audiences. But that’s all on borrowed time. Media owners must find ways of making online media sustainable and that (mostly) will mean using sponsorship, advertorials, events and e-commerce to fund content made available to readers either free or at very low-cost. It’s a clear challenge to the viability of print media. But if they don’t do it, someone else will. Haymarket knows that only too well – because it bought the digital-only Pistonheads.

It might, though, be a bit easier for specialist media than for mass market operators. Many readers will still pay for narrow-cast content and ‘membership subscriptions’ can appeal strongly to enthusiasts.

It is clear also that long-established print brands, content and relationships, really can count for something in the race to create strong digital media. Haymarket’s What Car? shows that. But these traditional groups must beware that the ‘new’ competition increasingly comes from digital-only services which are managed as, say, motor businesses rather than as media. As we have seen in women’s fashion, digital retailers find it easier to become content producers than the reverse.

The challenge for Haymarket is, therefore, the familiar one of focusing on digital growth sectors and reinventing business models. It has taken the early steps in changing the balance by, for example, merging the once-separate content teams producing Autocar and What Car? magazines. But that – and the recent recruitment of a high-flying Chief Technology Officer – is just the start.

The need to de-clutter

The cold fact is that Haymarket must get back to making steady profits. The requirement for digital investment underlines the need to cut traditional costs and also maximise profits from non-core brands. Like many print media companies, it needs to ‘de-clutter’.

In consumer markets, its best digital bets may be the data-rich automotive and consumer electronics sectors where it is strong, versatile and can own content globally. Its broad automotive reach includes: What Car?, Motorsport News, Classic & Sports Car, Autosport, F1 Racing, and the 120-year old weekly Autocar, whose YouTube channel features 850 videos and has almost half a million subscribers, racking up more than 40m video views annually.

The magazine What Hi-Fi? is published in the UK, France, India, Indonesia, Russia, Serbia, South Africa and Spain, reaches 1.6m readers and has a website with data on more than 30,000 products. But Haymarket people must regret that – unlike their closest rivals Immediate Media and Dennis – they are not participating in the global boom in cycling, an enthusiast market made for e-commerce, video, social media, and data ownership. But the success of the 21-year-old football magazine FourFourTwo – published in 17 markets round the world – shows the strength of Haymarket brands even in sectors where data leadership may be out of reach. And the company has a strong track record in customer magazines, content marketing (with clients including the British Army, Sports Direct, Jaguar and Volkswagen) and exhibitions (Clothes Show Live, Autosport International, and Cereals).

In B2B information, Haymarket’s focus is clearly on media-marketing-communications and medical. But the UK company’s sprawling portfolio stretches across: horticulture, urban planning, charities, energy, local government, and travel. We may expect to see some rationalisation of international operations outside the US.

Time for change at Haymarket

Time for change at Haymarket

Rationalisation might seem out of character for the expansive Haymarket and its effusive founder, but it has actually been selling B2B magazines steadily over recent years. It has also been none too slowly reducing headcount. The group’s current workforce of 1,600 may be almost 1,000 below the peak. But there may be much more to come.

Well, what’s next?

The possibility of a major ‘reorganisation’ is not lost on Haymarket’s nervous Brits whose new offices will be leased: a telling break with Michael Heseltine’s career-long insistence on owning property. The former politician has been buying houses and office buildings even longer than publishing companies. But no more. That’s how much things have changed.

Founder’s son, executive chairman Rupert Heseltine and CEO Kevin Costello (both of whom have had 20-year careers with Haymarket) now have the daunting task of turning it into a digital powerhouse and restoring long-term profitability.

This is a substantial challenge for the company that has enlivened UK-based magazine-media for almost 50 years. But Haymarket has always been thrillingly good at beating the odds.

 

5 January 2016 UPDATE (from The Guardian):

Haymarket Publishing reported a small rise in operating profits to £5m last year after selling off its headquarters to slash its debt by 80%. The publisher reported an 8.7% rise in operating profit to £5.03m as revenues fell slightly from £187m to £184.3m in the year to the end of June 2015. On a pre-tax basis the company reported a loss of £2.8m.

The publisher said that digital revenues accounted for 33% of the total £184.3m last year, and they are expected to hit 37% in the current financial year to the end of June 2016. Print revenues accounted for 42% of total revenues, down from 61% in 2012. “Although we have not been immune to the volatile advertising climate, we have been able to weather the storm through investment and focus in our top performing segments,” said Haymarket Publishing group chief executive Kevin Costello. “We also continued to shift our portfolio away from print in favour of digital and our festivals, conferences and exhibitions businesses.”

The company, which was co-founded by Heseltine in 1957, said the small increase in operating profit was due to growing demand for online content, especially the motoring brand Pistonheads, as well as specialist contract publishing and its medical and pharmaceutical business information service in the US. It has undertaken a radical restructuring programme in the last three years in order to strengthen its financial position. The programme, including a £116m property disposal plan that saw the business move out of Hammersmith and sell off its former HQ in Teddington in November, has brought its net debt under control. The publisher reported net debt of £18m in the year to the end of June 2015, just over one times company earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £16.3m. (www.theguardian.com)

6 October 2016 UPDATE (from Autosport)

Haymarket Media Group has agreed to sell its motorsport brands – including Autosport, F1 Racing, Motorsport News and the LAT photographic agency – to Motorsport Network, the specialist online US motor racing content and events company. The sale means Motorsport Network, the Miami-based owner of Motorsport.com, will also acquire the Autosport International show and Autosport Awards, with the intention to develop the brands from Haymarket’s motorsport division as part of its global motorsport media franchise. Zak Brown, chairman of Motorsport Network said: “This milestone in acquiring the businesses that Haymarket has grown over decades will be recognised by everyone in the industry as a mark of our intent….This acquisition is part of a broader consolidation strategy and is aligned with a series of significant changes we’re witnessing across the motorsport landscape.” As part of the change of ownership, around 70 Haymarket employees will transfer with the motorsport titles to the new owners.

(Haymarket cashes in: The price has not been disclosed of this divestment of what has been a core Haymarket business for almost 50 years.)

26 January 2017 UPDATE:

The financial stabilisation of Haymarket was recorded in the year ended 30 June 2016. During the year, the company made operating profit of £5.35m (a pre-tax loss of £10.7m) on turnover of £107m. The company noted in its filed accounts: “Following the completion of the sale of Teddington Studios…the UK group has moved into new rented office accommodation, with £84m…used to repay most of the outstanding term loans.” While the group’s solvency is clearly secured by the property divestment and loan repayments, the year was also significant because of the sharp reduction in the group’s cash deposits (down from £7.5m in 2015 to just £1.3m) as a result of a 37% increase in outstanding debtor payments. 

Context

Immediate Media goes retail

The future for Time Inc

Who (or what) killed EMAP?

Haymarket corporate site

Flashes & Flames

[ do default stuff if no widgets ]

5 thoughts on “What’s next for Haymarket Media?

  1. Anonymous

    Jul 27. 2015

    Really fascinating story. And very well told. Can’t wait for the full book on UK magazines.
    Kindle at £3.99. A bargain. And a best seller to be.

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  2. Paul @ SocialMedia

    Jul 27. 2015

    Thanks Colin, another timely and well-researched piece from you about one of UK media’s iconic brands. Monetizing the move to digital is fascinating to watch, I suspect their CTO will be critical in how well they position themselves to take advantage of all that audience data and turn Haymarket into a true digital comms business whatever channels they decide upon. Haven’t they been developing their CRM/business network for automotive already?

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  3. Teddington Ted

    Jul 31. 2015

    Interesting stuff but from inside Teddington things don’t look nearly as rosy. The customer publishing side has withered and died in recent years largely on the back of the excessive profits made from it in the bad old days when it was treated as a cash cow. Now it tries to compete against smaller and leaner rivals who are far better at customer relationships; we lost all the army stuff last year.

    Circulations on the consumer magazines are in serious trouble and many of them still look relatively over staffed compared to rivals. There has been an exodus of senior staff in recent years, the long-serving Design Director the latest departure, but that has created a feeling for most of us that there is a real leadership vacuum. And yes, of course we know that the new offices will be too small, hence talk of hot desking and working from home and all the rest of it.

    The betting here is that a tranche of magazines are going to be sold. Pistonheads was bought almost by accident, for a long time the £1m paid for it looked like a ridiculous amount, but now the classifieds seem to be bringing in more profit than anything else. So why bother keeping titles like Autocar and Autosport and Motorsport News that are struggling to justify print distribution costs? Take them digital only or sell them (or license them) to somebody who can do them for less money and with more flexibility.

    Autocar’s YouTube traffic looks impressive, but it hasn’t even covered the raw production costs of the videos concerned and most of the team behind it was let go earlier this year. Now its all about low cost wins.

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  4. Roger Green

    Sep 15. 2015

    Hi Colin – a very comprehensive piece but (writing as a mid 1970s Computing veteran) I do think you should have given credit by name to design director Roland Schenk. Not just for the strong house style but for the way that his design team were given the clout to dictate to editors what the pages should look like to show off to best advantage the quality photography. Also, Robert Heller, the original editor of Management Today played a key part in training the company’s journalists two write in a clear, jargon-free way whether about computers, accountancy or advertising. Finally, for some additional colour you could have used a phrase like: “From its Soho headquarters, a listed former Georgian brothel at 76 Dean Street that overlooks Karl Marx’ London flat…”

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  5. lukem9583

    May 03. 2017

    Great read.

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