Scott Trust Ltd

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Group.png Scott Trust Ltd  
Scott Trust.jpg
Right-wing bias disguised as ‘balanced’ journalism

Scott Trust Limited is the British company that owns Guardian Media Group (GMG) and thus the two broadsheets The Guardian published from Monday to Saturday and The Observer on Sunday.

The original Scott Trust, established in 1936, was wound up in 2008 and replaced by a limited company using the same name. The new commercially-oriented Scott Trust Ltd appoints a board to run the show – the composition of which might startle those who still regard The Guardian as a left-leaning newspaper. Scott Trust Ltd appoints the editor, sets the commercial direction of the newspapers and has total responsibility for the overall development of the The Guardian and The Observer. Scott Trust Ltd is controlled by people predominantly from banking, venture capital and marketing which perhaps explains The Guardian's well-documented expertise in off shore tax avoidance schemes. The hypocritical exercises, the abrupt dismissal of dissenting voices such as its ex-reporter Nafeez Ahmed and, of course, its own supposedly neutral coverage of the Labour leadership elections and the ongoing demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn. The few truly radical voices it allows space for are merely fig leaves for a right-wing bias disguised as ‘balanced’ journalism.[1]

The current chair of the Scott Trust Board is millionaire former owner of Wall to Wall Productions, Alex Graham,[2] who replaced Liz Forgan in 2016.[3] Scott Trust Board member Anthony Salz is a senior investment banker and executive vice chairman of Rothschild, and a director at NM Rothschild and Sons. He was a key legal adviser to Guinness during the notorious share-rigging scandal, helped Rupert Murdoch form BSkyB, and was vice chair of the BBC’s Board of Governors before it was replaced by the BBC Trust. Other board members include the current editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, Guardian finance editor Nils Pratley who is the journalist director of the board, and one member of the Scott family, Russell Scott.[4]

History

1936–1948

The Trust was established in 1936 by John Scott, owner of the Manchester Guardian (as it then was) and the Manchester Evening News. After the deaths in quick succession of his father C. P. Scott and brother Edward, and consequent threat of death duties, John Scott wished to prevent future death duties forcing the closure or sale of the newspapers, and to protect the liberal editorial line of the Guardian from interference by future proprietors. The first and only Chairman of the first Trust was John Scott.

1948–2008

The Trust was dissolved and reformed in 1948, as it was thought that the Trust, under the terms of the original Trust Deed, had become liable to tax due to changes in the law. At this time John Scott also gave up his exclusive right to appoint trustees; the trustees would henceforth appoint new members themselves. Five months after the signing of the new Trust Deed, John Scott died. After three years of legal argument, the Inland Revenue gave up its claim for death duty.

The eight initial trustees of the 1948 Trust were all connected with the Manchester Guardian and Evening News, Ltd., and included four of C. P. Scott's grandsons as well as the then editor of the M.G., A. P. Wadsworth. It has become normal practice for a Guardian journalist to be a member of the trust, though he or she is not considered to be a "representative" of the staff, as this may result in a conflict of interests.

In 1992, the Trust identified its central objective as being the following:

"To secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to its liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner."[5]

The Trust sees its main functions as being the following:

  • "To secure the Trust's own continuity by renewing its membership and by dealing with threats to its existence
  • To monitor the organisation, financial management and overall strategy of the Group, holding the Board accountable for its performance
  • To appoint and 'in extreme circumstances' to dismiss the editors of The Guardian, the Manchester Evening News (and The Observer after its acquisition in 1993)
  • To act as a 'court of appeal' in the event of any dispute between the editorial and managerial sides of the operation."[5]

The second Trust had five Chairmen over its 60 years: Alfred Powell Wadsworth (1948–56), Richard Farquhar Scott (1956–84), Alastair Hetherington (1984–89), Hugo Young (1990–2003) and Liz Forgan.

2008–present

In October 2008 it was announced that the trust was being wound up and its assets transferred to a new limited company named Scott Trust Ltd, whose core purpose was enshrined in its constitution and "cannot be altered or amended." The new company is barred from paying dividends, and "its constitution has been carefully drafted to ensure that no individual can ever personally benefit from the arrangements."[6] Despite this, the essence of the Trust has changed from a charity to a for-profit corporation, and it has been criticised for the influence its board members have on reporting the news. Board members with deep ties to HSBC, together with the fact that the 'Guardian' newspaper is the single largest recipient of HSBC advertising revenue, have led some reporters to allege editorial influence and the "spiking" of 'Guardian' stories about cases of massive fraud perpetrated by HSBC in the UK.[7]

In February 2010, the company announced the sale of its GMG Regional Media arm and its regional print titles to the Trinity Mirror Group. The regional titles comprised the Manchester Evening News and 31 others in the North West and South of England. The sale was finalised on 28 March 2010 and ended the Scott Trust's association with regional newspapers.

Guardian News and Media, a subsidiary of Scott Trust Ltd, reported a loss of £30.9 million for the year to the end of April 2013.

The company via the Guardian Media Group (GMG, a subsidiary company) completed the sale for £619 million of its 50.1% stake in Auto Trader on 4 March 2014, when Apax Partners, a venture capital firm, increased its share to become the sole shareholder in the business. The £619 million earned from the sale of Auto Trader adds to the £253.7 million of cash and investments which GMG published in its 2013 annual report. This leaves an investment fund which is likely to be in excess of £850 million to underwrite Guardian losses.[8]

In December 2014, it was announced that Alan Rusbridger, then Guardian editor-in-chief, would succeed Liz Forgan as the Chairman of the company in 2016[9] but he unexpectedly announced on 13 May 2016 his resignation as a director.[10][11]

On 13 May 2016, the Telegraph reported that The Guardian had sent its former editor Alan Rusbridger into exile after the newspaper's new management team prevailed in a civil war over who is to blame for its parlous financial state. The 62-year-old had been due to become chairman of the Scott Trust, which funds the Guardian, in the autumn. But after a marathon Scott Trust board meeting across two days, Katharine Viner, his successor as editor, and David Pemsel, chief executive of Guardian Media Group, succeeded in a plot to block Mr Rusbridger's return. He told colleagues:

"Kath and David clearly believe they would like to plot a route into the future with a new chair and I understand their reasoning. I have a fantastically interesting new life in Oxford. I will miss you all."[12]

As of January 2016 the company's funds were down to £740m down from £838.3m in July 2015.[13]

Scott Trust Board

Current members

Name Joined Position
Alex Graham January 2013 Chair of the Scott Trust Board (2016 – present)
Katharine Viner June 2015 Editor-in-chief, Guardian News and Media (June 2015 – present)
David Pemsel June 2015 Former head of marketing at ITV, CEO of GMG (June 2015 – present)
Emily Bell January 2013
Catherine Howarth 2015
Will Hutton 2004
Stuart Proffitt 2015
Anthony Salz 2009 Senior investment banker, Director at NM Rothschild and Sons
Vivian Schiller 2015
Russell Scott 2015 Family member
Ole Jacob Sunde 2015
Nils Pratley 2016 Jounalist director of the Scott Trust Board (2016 – present)
Philip Tranter February 2012 Company secretary, Scott Trust Limited (2012 – present)

Past Chairs

Name Position
Liz Forgan Chair of the Scott Trust (2003 – 2016)
Hugo Young Chair of the Scott Trust (1989 – 2003)

Scott Trust Foundation

Besides the GMG businesses, the company has a charitable wing, the Scott Trust Foundation, and oversees the Guardian's archive and education centre.


References

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