Not much came of the Berliner Zeitung journalists' demands that their proprietor, Mecom-boss David Montgomery, divest the newspaper if he was not planning to invest in it and get rid of his henchman in Germany, Joseph Depenbrock.
According to Taz.de, Montgomery, who had travelled to Berlin to convey his answer personally, said Depenbrock would stay where he was and Mecom's commitment to Berliner Zeitung might last forever (more on Montgomery's Berlin visit here).
Neither answer would have gone down well. Even though the argument of Montgomery only being in it for the short-term, that, no matter what he says, he will milk the companies dry and then hit the road, is frequently used against him, it seems many Mecom-journalists fear the prospect of being milked dry for all eternity much more, and, like so many other newspapers folks these days, long for that knight in shining armour with bottomless pockets: no reckless gambler or profit-chaser, but an independently wealthy, reliable and benign philantropist unaffected by the ups and downs of the marketplace.
The Group Employee council
As for Depenbrock, the fact that he holds the dual role of editor-in-chief and managing director, may be unheard if in Germany, but is not uncommon in other Mecom-countries such as Norway and Holland. Therefore, Mecom's group employee council did not offer an opinion on Depenbrock's role, other than acknowledging that he didn't have the trust of his employees, but did express their sympathy with the general concerns of the staff at Beliner Zeitung.
"The Group Employee Council in Mecom expresses our support to the Works Council in Berliner Verlag in their protests against severe cuts in staff in the company. We do fully understand their frustration when met with cost cutting programs together with demands of profit margin up to 18 - 20 %. In our opinion it is very unwise for management to set unrealistic goals for net profit, when the consequences will be very negative both for the people losing their jobs, the quality of the newspapers and the general goodwill of the company," they said in a statement issued 19 February.
Strictly speaking, the employee representation system in Mecom has been a bit unclear since Mecom Europe ceased to exist and Mecom's headquarter was relocated to London. In short, without going into too much technical details, laws on employee representation differs in the UK and in Europe, but a new structure for employee representation is currently being negotiated and expected to be in place later this spring.
In contrast to Depenbrock, Keith Allen, whom several Mecom sharholders lost their faith in after a botched profit warning in January, did not get to keep his job. Last Wednesday, when I found myself running from CityAM to Metro International and then on to Google's London headquarters, Mecom announced that John Allwood would replace Keith Allen as finance director, while Allen was appointed chief operating officer. In a statement, Mecom stressed how Allwood's "financial track record and experience of European business will be invaluable to Mecom."
Meanwhile, away from all the management keruffle, several of Mecom's newspapers have recently undergone, or are in the process of undergoing, a facelift. In Germany, Netzeitung was recently relaunched in a new, green design. In Denmark, Urban, the youth-oriented freesheet of Berlingske Officin, Mecom's Danish arm, was recently relaunched with a new 'human-oriented' profile (all the stories and pictures have to have humans in them, no landscapes, buildings, financial results only - although I'm not sure if they uphold the distinction American journalists like to make between RPs, Real Persons, and BBs, Babbling Bureaucrats, or if BBs are considered human as well). In Norway, the local and regional newspapers of Mecom's Norwegian arm, Edda Media, is getting a new design framework later this spring.