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Kjell Aamot: Johnston Press' new, controversial non-executive director

Could we see Schibsted mount a take-over attempt of Johnston Press following yesterday's announcement of the latter company appointing the former media group's ex-CEO, Kjell Aamot, as a non-executive director?

Nah, I can't really see that happening, but it's an interesting appointment. I was approached by more than one UK journalist about Mr Aamot after the appointment was announced yesterday since a quick Google search led them to my post on his resignation last spring.

He had then held the position as CEO of Schibsted ASA since the group was formed in 1989, and has been given a lot of the credit for the group's famed online success – not at least due to early online investments and a willingness to stick with those investments even in turbulent financial times when other media companies scaled back or even abandoned risky new projects.

As CEO of Schibsted Mr Aamot was known to be a visionary, but he also courted controversy on more than one occasion, especially when he was reported to have predicted the imminent death print newspapers (link in Norwegian). He later said he was talking about paid for newspapers, not print newspapers as such as he still had a lot of faith in free newspapers (Schibsted owns several market leading freesheets). Still, employee representatives in several at Schibsted's Norwegian paid for newspapers were livid and accused him of prematurely issuing an obituary for print.

He also highlighted one of the biggest paradoxes in Schibsted's business model by saying that in the future journalism will be paid for by car sales (link in Norwegian). As the company's revenues increasingly are generated from its online classifieds business we could see a situation where the journalism business is fully subsidised by standalone online classifieds operations (flippantly, you could say the company owns Norway's version of eBay, except it's not free. It also owns similar classifieds businesses in other European countries).

All in all, a very interesting appointment indeed. Mr Aamot will certainly bring a lot valuable experiences and insights from his 20 years running a media company that earns good money online, a feat which seems to be the exception rather than the norm these days.

With his many years of international experience he should also be well versed in the many cultural challenges that is bound to appear between the very direct, no-nonsense Norwegians and the rather... eh.. circumloquacious Brits...


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