This has been a year of significant constitutional reform.
The Scott Trust, like all discretionary trusts, was set up for a finite term of years and has always known that it would be required by law to be wound up or reconstituted within the foreseeable future. Trustees decided to grasp the nettle this year and consider which new structure would best secure its core purpose – the long-term independence and financial security of the Guardian.
On the basis of extensive legal advice as to how the nature and purposes of the Trust might be enshrined in a more explicit, enduring and public form than ever before, it was decided to convert the Scott Trust into a limited company.
It is a company which will not permit any private profit. Its essential functions and priorities are unchanged. Its Memorandum and Articles of Association can now be made publicly available. Even its name, The Scott Trust Limited, declares the continuity of its purpose. It is the hope and intention of the directors that the new company will continue to protect that purpose at least as effectively as in the past.
Recession, coming on top of fundamental systemic change, has hit all media businesses. The Group itself is currently loss-making, though this is to a significant degree the result of a restructuring of the portfolio. Ownership by the Scott Trust gives GMG a valuable ability to think long-term and look beyond the immediate impact on the bottom line, but it cannot insulate us entirely from the stormy times prevailing in our industry.
Investments in successful and diversified businesses like Trader Media Group and Emap are long-term investments for the future which will help to build a secure foundation for our journalism in years to come. But in the short-term we are having to take hard decisions and look to efficiencies everywhere.
The most immediate effect has been on the regional newspapers in the North West and in Surrey and Berkshire. Regional journalism all over the country has been hardest hit by the flight of advertising to the web and by the changes in newspaper buying habits.
We are enormously proud of the record of papers like the Manchester Evening News in reporting, investigating and contributing to the life of their communities. We are determined to do what we can to keep that essential contribution going but it has been a tough year and many excellent journalists and dedicated commercial colleagues are facing hard times.
The Guardian, the Observer and guardian.co.uk moved from their old homes, which included the unlovely building at 119 Farringdon Road, into new London offices in Kings Place. The move, which was achieved with impressive speed and skill, was not just a necessary upgrading in the physical conditions in which people were working but also enabled the office layout to facilitate, instead of obstruct, the integrated working methods of our increasingly multimedia operation.
Roger Alton stepped down as editor of the Observer after almost ten years of considerable achievement in circulation and other terms, and was succeeded by John Mulholland, who in his first year has built on the Observer’s historic strengths in great writing and expert foreign reporting and analysis.
The Guardian has pursued its ambition to be the world’s leading liberal voice through the international growth of guardian.co.uk and launch of Guardian America, and through a number of outstanding pieces of sustained journalism.
The Scott Trust Foundation made grants of £91,700 to 13 organisations eligible for support from our charitable funds. The Guardian Foundation worked in a number of countries and developed further its media education partnership with the BBC. The bursary scheme, which supports training for young journalists, has been relaunched and for the first time includes a bursary for a student in technology.
Lord Myners (Paul as he was when he left us) resigned the chair of GMG to become City Minister. We owe him warm thanks for an invaluable contribution to the development of GMG and for his passionate interest and involvement in every part of the business, not least the newspapers.
We are delighted to welcome his successor, Amelia Fawcett, an outstandingly successful and highly respected figure in British and international business. Her wise counsel will be particularly valued at a time of profound change and uncertainty.
Anthony Salz, executive vice chairman of Rothschild, a former senior partner at Freshfields and vice chair of the Governors of the BBC until 2006, has joined The Scott Trust Limited as a director of the new company. His reputation and experience in the City and in many of Britain’s foremost cultural institutions will bring new and much-valued strengths.
Dame Liz Forgan DBE
Chair, Scott Trust