End of era for NBR publisher

Colman: rescued paper from Fairfax

Publisher Barry Colman yesterday implemented a succession plan which will pass control of The National Business Review to its chief executive, Todd Scott.

Mr Colman, who is 65 later this year, said the time was right for the move following extensive restructuring of the business in the last four years to meet the rapidly-changing media market.

NBR’s aggressive online strategy and the creation of New Zealand’s first major subscriber paywall had allowed it to maintain its elite 100,000-strong business readership base while positioning it for future growth.

It would be “business as usual”, with all the current staff  being retained under the arrangement which will leave Mr Scott as the sole shareholder.

Mr Scott joined NBR in 2008 to lead the development of its online business and his management role was later expanded to include the newspaper operation. He was appointed chief executive in 2010.

His earlier career was in radio and television which culminated in a sales and marketing role in Wellington for MediaWorks, formerly RadioWorks, where he won several national performance awards.

Mr Colman has been NBR’s publisher for the last 24 years. He acquired the masthead from John Fairfax & Sons during the Australian company’s assets sell-off in the late 1980s.

The sell-off followed the ill-fated, junk bond-powered bid by Warwick Fairfax lll to take over his family’s giant media conglomerate.

Simultaneously, the NBR had struck financial hardship after Fairfax had taken the paper from bi-weekly to daily.

Its sales approach to other major newspaper companies were rebuffed and in his deal Mr Colman secured the loss-making NBR masthead for $1.

Mr Colman scrapped the daily format in favour of NBR’s traditional, award-winning Friday weekly one and restructured its production and distribution while moving head office from the capital to Auckland.

With its fortunes restored, NBR enhanced its brand with major arts sponsorships, including $2 million to date as the naming sponsor of the NBR NZ Opera Company.

Meanwhile, NBR has won numerous major editorial awards for its investigative journalism over the last two decades.

A former journalist, Mr Colman founded Liberty Publishing in Hamilton in 1977 with a community newspaper.

The company grew rapidly and went on to establish the nationwide Property Press stable, the first pictorial real estate publications in the country.

Property Press was sold to Kerry Packer’s ACP Media in 2001.

Mr Colman will retain some niche elements of the NBR stable, including the legal publication Capital Letter, which were not included in today’s deal.

He will remain as a consultant to the company.

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39 Comments & Questions

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Glad to see the NBR will remain independent from the mainstream media who would otherwise would have found a way to butcher what it stands for.

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Well played, Mr Colman.

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Well done Barry, it was a pleasure doing business with you.

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Colman was an eccentric bugger, but a good one who loved news. No better publisher to have in your corner as a journo.

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Was?

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Thanks for your contributions to business journalism over the past quarter century and best wishes for your "retirement" Barry.

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Great to see NBR is holding onto its current staff. I've seen a vast improvement over past few months. Especially online!

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Congratulations Todd a much deserved reward for all of your hard work.

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Congratulations Todd!

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Best wishes Barry...it was a privilege to work for the NBR with you as the proprietor, to know you backed your journalists to the hilt, and when the time came on day one (!) of your ownership (Police v Rennie), the support was immediate and unstinting.

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Well layed indeed - here's to the next 25 years of success.

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.... was that a Freudian slip in my last comment? I actually meant 'played' :-)

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Warmest congratulations on a seamless transaction and transition.

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Nice comments for a Job well done barry. From the left and the right.
Editorial neutrality is alive and well in such a publication.
To have commentaters such as Matt Nippert and Mathew Hooten on the same staff shows how we get commentry from both sides.

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Nippert jumped ship to fairfax some time ago...would be interested to know why...?

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Matt Nippert isn't on staff.

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Congrats Barry.

It took you 25 years to get round to firing me, but it was a pleasure and a privilege to have worked with you, and for you, all that time.

We'll see if Todd has more success than you had in getting journalists to keep their desks tidy.

I imagine Constable A and Dick Hubbard won't be at the party.

Sincerely, all the very best.

Peter Gill

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Neither will the SFO, Mark Hotchin, or George Kerr...but then again I doubt they get many party invitations these days

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or all the people BC (as he is known) as wrongly fired over the years.

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The arbitrary nature of the BC axe will be missed as a useful current example of hard ass media management.

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all fixed now!

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May there be plenty of Libertas and Phantoms for a man who deserves it.

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Great success story! Well done NBR.

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There is a lot missing from the story.

Is Todd Scott independently wealthy and did he pay full price in cash?

Is there a huge earn out/deferred payment arrangement happening for Barry - and over what period, and what sort of control does Barry keep?

Is someone fronting Todd the cash for an LBO?

Or was Barry content with a 200% gain and sold for $3? This would be my favoured story.

A great legacy regardless Barry, and in turbulent times.

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I would be interested in seeing the answers from NBR to Lance Wiggs' questions. Having put the story on its pages, NBR should tell the whole story.

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There no way Mr Colman or the NBR should feel ablidged to answer Lance's questions ( they amount to snooping into other peoples business). This a private company and the details of the deal are private as long as the parties involved want it that way. ( If a public company was involved in some way then that is different).

The only reason the story is on it's pages is because it is the ownership of the NBR that is involved and being a media organisation then it is good business that the change of ownership is explained properly before others members of the media get the "story" and probably get it all wrong.

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Wrong. NBR is operating in a very public way so needs to be open to public scrutiny. You say that this amounts to "snooping into other people's business", but that's what NBR does week in week out!

NBR claims to be independent - so prove it.

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Rubbish. By your line of logic if Cameron Slater ( Whaleoil blog ) or David Chaston ( interest.co.nz) sold their blog sites they would be obliged to reveal the personal financial status of the buyer, the sale price, the financing arangements of the deal, in detail as they should open to" public scrutiny", because they are" operating in a very public way".
These are private companies as are Mr Coleman's companies including the ownership of the NBR. They are entitled to keep any or all of the details of their business affairs as private as they like.

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Barry,

Your presence "behind the masthead" will be missed among the Publishers of New Zealand as well as by a hoard of journalists many of whom you what not count among your friends.

I value greatly what I learned in relation to that very necessary aspect of publishing that involves taking a calculated risk and backing yourself to win the argument if it comes to a legal showdown. And being very careful about how you come to that judgment.

Sadly that aspect of publishing in NZ is probably dieing materially today. And it is already endangered.

I hope to see you on Twitter in the near future.
I certainly find it very hard to believe you will not continue to want to express a view on any number of things :)

And congratulations Todd. You have some big shoes to fill.

Alastair Thompson
Scoop.co.nz

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Tis funny that 200% remark. Does anyone know whether NBR came with much debt when he repurchased it? Passing on the mantle to Todd under similar circumstances might seem like a constructive way to engineer a round of creative cost reduction in the business in what feels like an equitable fashion.

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I did not realize at the time that as a subscriber I was almost at the beginning. As such I can only hope that the N,B.R will keep on running.in much the way that Barry Coleman has run it -, not completely the same but with what Todd has after some time kept its principals but delivers them in a way that he sees as interesting to his customers.

My best wishes to Mr Coleman in his retirement and also to Todd and long may the N.B.R. last,

Duncan Hamilton

.

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Barry Colman deserves much respect and his life is one of amazing achievement. I do hope he finds time to share his life story in an autobiography. I am sure we have much to learn from his example and he will have had many adventures and met many interesting people with stories to tell over the years. I hope Mr Colman enjoys his freedom to have some fun as he has deserved it.
As for Todd Scott, I am sure that he will have some brilliant ideas to take the NBR forward. As an insider, he should have much knowledge as to how to do this.
I wish them both well , not only for what both of them have achieved over the years, but also it is vital that NBR stays in independent hands.

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Typical. I didn't get around to being fired by Barry Colman and now it's too late.

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Barry Coleman has made a fantastic contribution to journalism, support for the cultural life of NZ and to the business community. He deserves recognition for his work.
Well done Barry, never met you, but respect you.

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Great achievement Barry. NBR's been a business 'must read' for as long as I can remember. Online transition has been an exceptional success.

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Congrats BC on wonderful career and tidy succession. All the best for the future.

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End of an era methinks .. hopefully, the new management will keep on telling it like it is rather than publishing sensationalism to help attract advertising, which, sadly is the trend today with mainstream newspapers.
Same with television (sigh).
Wish I could retire a bit but my bank mangler won't let me - since the Hotchins and others of the same ilk stole my nestegg.

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Congratulations Todd!

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Peter Gill again.

I think 25 years with the NBR brand gives me licence to make one more comment post re Barry.

Along with the comments that give Barry his due as a tower of independnet journalism in this country, there has been some awful cr*p in this comment column.

I have nothing to lose by defending the guy against those negative posts, because he dispensed with my services just before Xmas last year, and I as I say....that was after 25 years with the brand. (Barry did not own it when I was first taken on).

But he fostered jewels in business and political journalism such as the column Monsieur Le Petard, that I ran for a time, and then others did.

If anything in NZ journalism came close to Private Eye, that pisstake column did. It was a treasure.

You would never have seen someone like the Herald running anything like it.

Graeme Hunt ran the Rich List team and recruited me into it.

Although it was an overseas idea, Barry grabbed the Rich List concept with both hands and got amazing traction out of it. Other media did, and still do, quote the NBR Rich List.

People from Auckland's Caughey family phoned me and asked me to take them off the list. Colin Giltrap once said to me that his presence on the list created unwelcome attention from the IRD. I presume he was being jovial when he said it.

Barry and Huntie and I...and our economist... would do roadshows whereby we went o major ad agencies at 5pm and gave them presentations about the biz environment, that they seemed to love.

It may be that Barry met his charming wife Katie at one of these agencies.

We would go out on the boat for Car Of The Year and Agency of the year celebrations.

I was permitted to drive the boat on occasion, under the strict supervision from the contracted crew persons who had the necessary tickets.

Barry called one Saturday morning an said that via his Amnesty International Connections, he needed to host Sitiveni Rambuka on the boat and could I come and assist.

We all enjoyed the boat. It was on the boat one night that I mentioned to Barry that I thought it might be time for a tiny pay rise, given that I was donkey deep in the Le Petard, The Rich List, general features, and motoring.

Still sounding sonoursly in my ears...was his retort as we stood together on the bridge of MV Liberte.

"Peter, please do not try to negotiate with me when I am p*ssed."

And when we landed, he sent us home in his chauffeur driven Rolls Royce because he thought he may have offended us.

You would have to be living in a cupboard if you could not see what an iconic man journalism and publishing is farewelling this week.

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