Geordie Greig’s ousting as editor of the Daily Mail – and the decision to appoint his replacement, Ted Verity, as editor of a seven-day operation – is likely to mean the end of one of Fleet Street’s most bitter rivalries.
Often to the bafflement of readers, it saw the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday – owned by the same company and with many of the same readers – commit substantial resources to rubbishing the other’s stories.
There was the time four years ago when the Daily Mail paid for a helicopter to “rescue” a British explorer from the jungle of Papua New Guinea – only for the Mail on Sunday to run on an expose on how he did not really need saving.
During the Brexit referendum, the daily newspaper pumped out material in support of leaving the EU, while the Sunday campaigned for remain. When Greig’s Daily Mail was running a series of damaging stories about the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat, it was Verity’s Mail on Sunday that offered more positive coverage to Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife.
This hotchpotch of conflicting material would then appear on MailOnline, which was busy developing its own global audience driven by celebrity stories on its infamous “sidebar of shame”.
Yet internal politics meant MailOnline website stories would never appear in the print editions of its sister newspapers. It all resulted in an enormous amount of duplication, with much of the public never realising the internecine warfare going on beneath the surface.
Greig’s sudden and unexpected departure on Wednesday night has shone a light on this unresolved tension. And sources at the outlets suggest it points to a future where three distinct operations under a shared brand will be gradually replaced with a world where MailOnline – under the leadership of publisher Martin Clarke – is the dominant force.
Inside the Daily Mail’s print newsroom on Thursday there was a sense of unease as staff digested the news that Greig – spotted sorting out his belongings – would soon be leaving.
A paper that had just two editors between 1971 en 2018 – David English and Paul Dacre – is about to get its third boss in just four years. One Daily Mail employee compared Greig to David Moyes, the football manager brought in to Manchester United after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, only to find his predecessor was still very present.
Nervous staff are keeping an eye on whether senior executives who are close to the departing editor will be losing their jobs. There is an expectation that there will be deep job cuts on the newspapers, where staff are better paid than their online equivalents and can draw on substantial expenses budgets.
Although Downing Street has been furious about the Daily Mail’s highly critical coverage of Boris Johnson’s sleaze scandals, multiple sources suggest it was office politics – rather than national scheming – that ultimately did for Greig. Exactly what prompted his departure at the top of the company is a matter of dispute, but there is less doubt internally that the MailOnline boss, Clarke, is the man who emerged on top.
There was certainly no love lost between Dacre and Greig. The former is a brooding Brexiter, who largely avoided public life and was known for his expletive-filled “vagina monologues” in meetings.
His successor, the former editor of the upper-class magazine Tatler, was prone to dropping references to his literary connections and publicly distanced himself from his predecessor.
Clarke, by contrast, worked under Dacre and shares many of his approaches to management. Van deurslaggewende belang, he has won the backing of Lord Rothermere, the company’s controlling shareholder who is in the process of taking the Daily Mail’s parent company off the stock market and into the private ownership of his family.
“Having been captured by Dacre once, het [Rothermere] been captured by Dacre 2.0?” asked one source at the company.
Individuals who worked with Clarke at MailOnline describe him as an obsessive workaholic who would publicly admonish staff if they wrote headlines he considered to be dull or if they failed to rapidly rewrite a breaking news story from elsewhere.
“Nary a day would go by without him screaming at someone,” said one former colleague of Clarke. “Even when he wasn’t in the office he would call in on weekends. Absolute control freak.”
Greig and Clarke have always had a notoriously antagonistic relationship, with Greig going as far as to launch his own rival website for the print newspaper under the banner of Mail+.
Monday’s announcement that Clarke’s right-hand-man Rich Caccappolo would be installed as chief executive of all the Daily Mail’s media business was a sign of things to come – and Greig was swiftly out of the door.
In a sign of the times, the new boss will split his time between the Mail’s office in west London’s Kensington and New York – where DailyMail.com is a celebrity tabloid behemoth, with little relation to its starchier British cousin.
Greig’s next move is unclear. The former editor of Tatler, the Evening Standard and the Mail on Sunday has breezed through life. Although he has often been linked to a senior job in the arts, a joke now doing the rounds of the Mail office is that he has two weeks left to get ahead of Dacre and put in an application for one particular job – the chair of media regulator Ofcom.