FTSE 250: Magazine publisher Future slumps 15% as boss steps down

Marie Claire magazines, owned by Future
Future publishes a swathe of titles such as Country Life, FourFourTwo, Marie Claire Horse & Hound, and Metal Hammer. Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Marie Claire

Shares in magazine publisher Future (FUTR.L) tumbled as much as 15% on Tuesday amid reports that its veteran boss is set to step down.

Zillah Byng-Thorne, who has been at the helm of the company since April 2014, told the firm’s chairman she plans to retire in the next 18 months.

A formal search process has yet to be initiated by chairman Richard Huntingford, Sky News reported, but the news of her departure is likely to trigger interest from executives across the digital and publishing sectors.

The group, which publishes a swathe of titles such as Country Life, FourFourTwo, Marie Claire Horse & Hound, and Metal Hammer, also owns the TechRadar website, and comparison site GoCompare.

Just this week Byng-Thorne was appointed deputy chair of Trustpilot, the online reviews platform, while THG (THG.L) last week said she had left her role as senior non-executive director.

City insiders expect her to replace Tim Weller, Trustpilot's chairman, in due course, the broadcaster said.

It comes as Future doubled its profits last year on the back of strong revenues from magazine sales, digital advertising, and e-commerce thanks to a boom in online shopping during the pandemic.

Due to the strong performance, the company said that staff were set to share a £10m bonus pot.

Under the scheme, the minimum each of Future’s 2,800 workers will receive is a bonus of £2,250, with the amount graduated by factors including salary level, from a total pot estimated to be about £10m.

In 2022, staff earning under £50,000 will receive a 4% pay rise, and those on more will get 2%.

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Last year, the company also secured a £300m takeover of Dennis Publishing, which added the current affairs magazine The Week to Future's portfolio of titles.

Earlier this month, Susannah Streeter, Hargreaves Lansdown analyst, said: "It's been a remarkable tenure...for Zillah who has turned the page for Future into fresh chapters of growth.

"Rather than offering magazines designed to cater for mass consumption, there has been a razor-sharp focus on creating respected content on specialist subjects, such as gaming, which has been a big draw for advertising partners."

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