Plan to Revive RCS's El Mundo Newspaper Calls for More News

  • RCS Chairman Cairo also wants to cut costs to improve profit
  • Cairo: ‘Better to not start with five pages of comment’

Media mogul Urbano Cairo plans to revamp struggling Spanish daily El Mundo by emphasizing news over commentary and cutting costs as he brings in a new editor-in-chief.

Cairo, the chairman of Italy’s RCS Mediagroup SpA, said he believes the newspaper can be spiced up and improve its results under new editor-in-chief Francisco Rosell, a former journalist who just spent two years on the business side at Unidad Editorial, the Spanish unit of RCS. Rosell last month replaced Pedro Cuartango, who had been interim editor-in-chief since Cairo acquired RCS in mid-2016 after a four-month bidding war.

Urbano Cairo

Photographer: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

“We can improve El Mundo,” Cairo said in a phone interview. “It would be better to not start with five pages of comment as I’d prefer news. Comments are nice but not at the very start of a newspaper.”

It would be a radical shift for El Mundo, one of Spain’s most influential newspapers along with rival El Pais. Cairo, who served as personal assistant to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the 1980s, says he can duplicate the success he’s had in Italy with Corriere della Sera and sports tabloid Gazzetta della Sport, which have maintained their positions as the country’s top selling papers.

RCS reported a 3.5 million-euro ($4 million) profit in 2016, reversing a loss of 176 million euros a year earlier, as Cairo aggressively cut costs. The stock has gained more than 80 percent over the last year, giving RCS a market value of 716 million euros.

RCS’s unit in Spain also owns sports daily Marca, the country’s best-selling newspaper, and financial publication Expansion. Cairo plans to hold on to them all and doesn’t envision further acquisitions for now, he said.

“By nature, I am more a buyer than a seller so I’m not considering putting El Mundo, Expansion or Marca or other assets up for sale," Cairo said. “There’s no sense in merging El Mundo with something else. I want to invest more in our brands doing the same job we did in Italy with top seller Corriere della Sera, cutting costs and boosting revenue."

In the first quarter, El Mundo’s daily average circulation including digital subscriptions fell 12 percent to 122,000, compared with a year earlier, according to OJD data. Editorial sales at Unidad Editorial fell to 26.5 million euros from 30 million euros.

RCS slipped 1.3 percent to 1.35 euros at 1:32 p.m. in Milan.

During Cuartango’s brief tenure as editor-in-chief, El Mundo -- first printed in 1989 -- was hit by a court order that sought to block publication of the so-called Football Leaks, which revealed tax avoidance by soccer players and clubs. The stories were finally published. Cairo said Cuartango’s dismissal was unrelated.

“I’ve never received any pressure to replace Cuartango and there’s isn’t a link to Football Leaks,” Cairo said. “He did a very good job but he was an interim."

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