Independent News and Media released a statement today regarding the future of The Star. The deal is that they assume “full executive responsibility of the Irish Daily Star” or in other words they will appoint the senior management which they have done through the musical chairs school of appointments. 

Update: There seems to be some confusion in that statment as to whether or not the business has been sold to the Indo or not! But according to the Irish Independent (who we can’t link to as they might seek a ‘licence fee’ for the link) there is a new agreement between the two sides. 

Ger Colleran, the current MD, will revert back to his old post as Editor and Gerry Lennon is appointed as Managing Director of The Star, along with his current role as MD of the Sunday World.

Richard Desmonds’ Northern Shell still retains 50% of the JV. But these moves beg more questions than can be answered in one sitting. The press release is at pains to stress that the anonymity of the entity would be maintained and the board would be independent yada yada yada.

But let look at the reality: The paper is moving to Talbot St – granted there were possibly parts of Talbot Towers that would be akin to the Marie Celeste, so the occupation is a good thing.

I get the sense that with Gerry Lennon’s overarching roles as MD of both Sunday World and Daily Star that we’ll see, from a commercial perspective anyway, a seven day edition of the two titles.

If you move the two money departments closer together, you’re bound to squeeze out synergies. No point two reps visiting an advertising agency selling one product each, when you can get one rep to sell the two products at the same time instead. The two papers both see the same ad agencies and visit the same direct clients, so it’s easy ‘low hanging fruit’.

The two Circulation departments would be replicating a lot of work as well and they too would be under a bit of scrutiny.

There are nine redundancies planned across the money end of The Star and, to me, they absolutely point to a ‘merging’ of the commercial ends of the World and Star and you can spin all you like about The Star remaining ‘a standalone entity’ – the reality is that the paper has moved a step, or a few steps, closer to the Sunday World and thus IN&M.

The kicker for me is the actions of the shareholders from Blighty.

When Kate got her kit off and Michael O’Kane decided that the pictures were fair game, Richard Desmond had kittens, pups and another set of kittens. He threatened all sorts and even saber rattled that he’d close the profitable publication with immediate effect. Some pacifying was needed to placate the shareholder.

Michael O’Kane was suspended on September 17th and his head eventually fell off on November 26th. Therefore it’s taken nearly four months to appoint an editor (and in this case recycle one) and restructure the business on the back of the pictures episode.

I’m at a complete loss to explain what has happened to change the UK shareholders point of view that “their” paper and business must remain as independent to then in a breath four months later ceding executive control to IN&M. I’m further agasp as to what changed the UK shareholder from a man possessed in September with fire in his eyes into a man agreeing to these substitutions during the game.

With Ger Colleran back in the wheelhouse at least we might see his Ian Paisleyesque debating style back on Vincent Browne: “there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (poignantly a bit like one of his shareholders in September).