MGN’s Bailey….”ooooooooo, not us hoffissah

The Slog reveals why Morgan’s survival is about a lot more than his CNN salary

The grisly demise of the News of the World came as a welcome bonus to MGN, the owners of the Mirror and People titles: it plonked £35M worth of advertising into the tabloid sector. But boy, do they need it. And it could all go the same way as the Screws…if the rising tide of allegations against Piers Morgan stick….as of course, they will.

Sharp eyes have noticed the distinct lack of enthusiasm over at the Guardianista for MGN bashing: a sure sign that Russ Burnt-Bridges is concerned about a Leftist paper getting deeper into financial trouble. While Big G’s Hackgate section is full of tittle-tattle anti-Newscorp stuff this morning, there’s so far been but one entry on Morgan – and nothing about Mirror Group’s risible complaint to the Parliamentarians. This denied all the allegations, the company insisting that “our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] code of conduct.” Bollocks they do: these clowns never learn when the game’s up.

But there are still a lot of fine journalists and decent people in Mirror Group. And lucky for us, one of them is talking to The Slog:

“They [MGN management] are sh***ing themselves,” said the informant, “Running around looking terrified, hoping they can shore up the dam. Once the truth gets out, they’re f**ked….and they know it”.

Let’s examine this allegation from a business and management talent point of view.

Like most of the Fleet Street albatrosses, Mirror Group somehow managed to be asleep when the internet happened. This has created a parlous financial situation upon which even the Guardian (and lots of other titles) commented recently.

A lot of the angst relates to CEO Sly Bailey’s huge salary. Shareholders want her to cut that pay in half, from £750,000 to £375,000. Last year – for some reason – Bailey trousered a £1.7m total package. Since 2004, it’s also worth noting that the workforce has halved, while MGN’s operating profit has fallen by fully two-thirds. But being a greedy senior executive, Sly Bailey didn’t feel it pertinent to take note of those changed circumstances….at least, not when it came to her own wedge.

Anyway, Ms Bailey has been the CEO for some years, so the greed and the profit drought all took place on her watch. She is thus well-placed to adopt the Murdoch stance (once the CM&S committee eventually drag her in for a chat) when it comes to phone-hacking, viz, I’m just a fat cat without the faintest notion what the Bejesus hacks are getting up to on any of my papers, but we have the highest standards etc etc.

If the CEO doesn’t inspire shedloads of confidence, not much will be forthcoming from the Chairman, Sir Ian Gibson. Sir Ian’s main claim to fame is that, while a non-Exec director keeping an experienced old eye on events at Northern Rock under Adam Applecart, the institution suffered the first bank run for nearly 200 years….and cost the UK taxpayer a cool £80 billion in write-offs and guarantees.

Sir Ian’s testimony to the Treasury Select Committee about this in 2007 was enlightening to say the least. This was just after the management had squeaked “Help!” to Chancellor Darling, but before the entire extent of Page One stupidity was laid bare. Herewith Gibson’s opening summary of the Northern Rock Board’s performance:

“As you all know, we can only deal with the world as we know it. We dealt pretty well with the world as we knew it; and the world has changed.”

No doubt the Sioux Indians’ Chief took a similar view when the Paleface’s Iron Horse came galumphing into their lives, and the new-fangled spitting-stick technology was shown to work better than bows and arrows. He wasn’t called Sitting Bull for nothing.

After a pretty fierce grilling, Sir Ian Gibson is recorded as having partaken in this frank exchange:

Q743 Chairman: Sir Ian, finally, do you think relations between the Board and the shareholders of Northern Rock were sufficiently transparent?

Sir Ian Gibson: I think they were, yes. In fact, to pick up a series of questions asked earlier, over the years Northern Rock’s overall approach has been to be extremely transparent about the simplicity and straightforwardness of its model because that has enabled it to disclose the quality of its book and therefore attract reasonably priced credit. That has continued too with its shareholders.”

Yes indeed, the model was one of such simplicity, it was based on interest rates going down, but never ever going up again. The shareholders I interviewed at the time did not seem to have the same clear grasp of what Applegarth and his fellow muppets were at.

On the basis of these pen portraits, incompetent insouciance seems a reasonably sound assumption to adopt in relation to what MGN’s leaders will now do. The tone of their letter to the CM&S sums this up quite well I think: Sky News gloatingly reported that MGN’s Bailey had warned MPs against ‘repeating “erroneous and inaccurate” comments implying that the tabloids were implicated in the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed the rival group, News International.’ My understanding as of yesterday is that John Whittingdale saw this as an irritating case of protesting too much. Sly Bailey could also do with boning up on Parliamentary privilege: even loose cannons like Louise Mensch can repeat accusations inside Westminster until the hackers emerge from Pentonville – there’s nothing Bailey or anyone else can do about it.

Word reaches me that the Grime Parson himself is concerned about the cowboy outfit who once employed him – and their ability – or lack of it – to face out the pressure. Piers and Sly didn’t get on (she thought he was too pro-Union) and so she was delighted at the opportunity to fire his Romping Arse once he’d made a complete Horlicks of an Iraq War hoax in May 2004. This may well be reflected in the desperate tone of Morgan’s last tweet before retiring to his bed last night:

“I’ll be making no further comment on #Hackgate. But important for everyone to know who these lying smearers are.” !!

Overuse of screamers there, Piers – and ‘smearing liars’ would’ve been better English. However, what’s interesting is that, thus far, old Arse Rim Pong has called many people nasty fat fibbers. But not Private Eye, or The Slog.

What could this mean? I think we should be told.

Get the full strength of this Morganatic farce at The End of the Piers Show.