West staffers home for Christmas

MEDIA group WA Newspapers Holdings has made several pre-Christmas redundancies as the market waits for the announcement of a new chief executive.

It is expected a replacement for long-serving boss Denis Thompson will be announced after the WAN board meets today.

Mr Thompson would not be drawn on speculation that the announcement would follow the meeting, despite chairman Trevor Eastwood’s assurances at the company’s recent AGM that the new appointment was imminent.

Mr Thompson also refused to comment on speculation that further redundancies were planned at the media company, which owns The West Australian and a host of smaller regional titles.

It is understood at least eight staff were made redundant on Friday, with the bulk of those in the sales and marketing departments.

The staff, including at least one senior executive, were given a few hours to collect their things. They were referred to outplacement service Chandler & MacLeod in Subiaco.

Mr Thompson did not want to comment on the decision, two months ahead of his own formal departure and just a few months after he received a $1 million bonus for his work at the helm of WAN during the past 10 years.

“There is no secret that there were redundancies,” he said. “It is restructuring of a couple of areas.”

However, WA Journalists Association president David Cusworth, a sub-editor at The West Australian, expressed his disappointment at the timing of the cuts, even though the editorial department was left largely unscathed, with just two long-serving photographers understood to have volunteered for a payout.

“When a company lays off staff with one hand and pays off a CEO to the tune of $1 million with the other, we’re entitled to ask the question,” Mr Cusworth told the packed audience at the WA media ball on Friday night.

Late last month WAN revealed the difficult trading conditions had affected the first quarter of the new financial year compared with last year, dragging net advertising revenue 16 per cent lower to $45 million and net circulation revenue down 6.3 per cent to $15.2 million.

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