Paul Dacre’s shock reappointment to the publisher of the Daily Mail marks the return of one of Britain’s most notorious figures to one of the country’s most powerful media groups. It is also the end move in a corporate Game of Thrones designed to map the digital and print future of the company’s titles.
Dacre, 73, seemingly running short on career moves after pulling out of the running to be chair of media regulator Ofcom, is back “advising” Lord Rothermere and the editors of Daily Mail & General Trust’s portfolio of titles.
While Dacre’s new role as editor-in-chief of DMG Media – the parent of titles including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, MailOnline, Metro and the i – does not officially involve editing responsibilities, he nevertheless will wield significant power as DMGT looks to a future as a private company.
His appointment comes days after the abrupt ousting of Geordie Greig, who had replaced Dacre as editor of the Mail in 2018, and reunites Dacre with two longstanding editorial allies.
Mail on Sunday editor Ted Verity, who was handed additional responsibility for the Daily Mail following Greig’s departure, spent years serving Dacre as deputy editor. He also enjoys strong relations with Martin Clarke, the powerful and at times volcanic editor of MailOnline.
The appointment of Dacre and removal of Greig – which was preceded by the surprise decision to promote the American, and Clarke ally, Richard Caccappolo, to chief executive of DMGT’s media operation – has set the tone and strategic direction of the business.
While Dacre may look for editorial payback, the bigger picture for the reformed editorial triumvirate is to chart a course for the long-term sustainability and profitability of DMGT’s media portfolio.
Lord Rothermere’s move to end 90 years as a listed company will create a business dependent on its media brands for about three-quarters of total revenues. While the print edition of the Daily Mail retains its political influence, and has supplanted Rupert Murdoch’s Sun as the biggest-selling newspaper in the UK, the direction of travel is digital. Digital advertising now accounts for 67% of total advertising across the combined Mail businesses, and almost a third across the entire media portfolio.
With skyrocketing newsprint and energy costs, the company has warned of job cuts at its 2,400-strong publishing operation. The return of Dacre comes as DMGT seeks to put the separate Mail brands on the same path editorially and commercially.