Barney Mthombothi resigns as Financial Mail editor

The carnage continues at 4 Biermann Ave as Stephen Haw is appointed to head The Times

Barney Mthombothi has resigned as editor of Financial Mail, after an eight year stint at the head of the weekly financial magazine. BDLive reported that Mthombothi broke the news in an address to staff on Wednesday morning. According to the report he "alluded to a difference of opinion with the board on the future direction of the magazine." BDFM publisher Peter Bruce was quoted as saying: "We greatly regret losing a colleague of this calibre. We wish Barney only the very best and we will jealously guard the integrity with which he edited the Financial Mail."

The Grubstreet website subsequently reported that Mthombothi resigned as he was "deeply unhappy with a planned merger of the FM and Business Day newsrooms." The website said it had "reliably learned" that Mthombothi was "at loggerheads" with Peter Bruce "over the plan and that they were communicating through lawyers recently."

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations the Financial Mail had a total paid circulation of 22 980 in the 3rd Quarter of 2012. However, a substantial proportion of this was made up of Third Party Bulk sales (1 155) and Travel & Commercial sales (5 338). The magazines "core circulation" - a combination of single copy sales, individual subscriptions, business subscriptions and digital editions - stood at 16 064. This is substantially down from the 3rd Quarter of 2006 when the core circulation of the magazine stood at 28 687, according to the ABC. See Table 1.

Table 1: Financial Mail circulation: 3rd Quarter of 2006 and 3rd Quarter of 2012 compared:


July to September 2006

July to September 2012

Individual subscriptions

11 321

3 240

Business subscriptions

12 252

7 212

Single copy sales

5 114

5 338

Digital editions



Travel & Commercial


5 761

Third Party Bulk Sales


1 155




Core circulation

28 687

16 064

Total paid circulation

29 072

22 980

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations.

However, it does not seem that the declining circulation of the FM played a direct role in Mthombothi's departure. When Renée Bonorchis (@Reneebon), a Bloomberg financial journalist, asked on Twitter whether Mthombothi's resignation was "the 1st step in the closure of this magazine or is there yet another editor's post open at TMG?" Bruce (@bruceps) commented in reply: "That's really undignified and frankly silly speculation Renee." In reply to a follow up question from David Bullard (@lunchout2) whether the FM did in fact "contribute to the bottom line" Bruce replied: "yes it does."

Mthombothi's resignation adds to the recent editorial carnage at 4 Biermann Avenue, the headquarters of the Times Media Group (TMG) and BDFM (which is half owned by TMG.) Two weeks ago TMG announced that the Sunday Times editor, Ray Hartley, was to step down and would be replaced by Times editor Phylicia Oppelt. Subsequently a number of top journalists at the Sunday Times were offered voluntary severance packages. Grubstreet reported earlier this week that Hartley had resigned due to a conflict with TMG MD Mike Robertson "over the paper's editorial direction."

By contrast Oppelt is widely regarded as a "Friend of Mike" (FOM). It was announced today that another FOM, Stephen Haw, had been appointed editor of The Times. According to Grubstreet:

"Haw, who is currently the editor of the Sunday Times Express edition, was the editor of the Lifestyle supplement when TMG MD Mike Robertson was editor of the Sunday Times. He moved into management after Robertson became Sunday Times publisher with other Sunday Times journalists of the same era. These include Andrew Gill, who was Business Times editor, and Susan Russell, previously editor of the Sunday Times TV magazine."

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