Johnston Press has announced that Ashley Highfield, whose background is in digital media rather than print, will be its new chief executive, succeeding John Fry who will stand down at the end of October.
Highfield is a vice president of Microsoft, responsible for the UK consumer and online business, including the UK's largest content portal MSN.
Prior to joining Microsoft, Highfield was director of new media and technology at the BBC, where he was responsible for the launch of the BBC's iPlayer and editor -in-chief of BBC Online, following which he was CEO of Project Kangaroo, the video-on-demand BBC/ITV/C4 joint venture.
He started his career with Coopers and Lybrand Management Consultancy from where he became managing director of Flextech (now Virgin Media) Interactive. Highfield is a graduate of the City University Business School, a Chartered Information Engineer and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Ian Russell, chairman of Johnston Press said "I am delighted to announce Ashley's appointment. His combined online and media sector pedigree will be a major strength in enabling us to grow our business again. On behalf of the board I would also like to thank John for his major contribution to the Company and wish him well for the future".
- Highfield will be awarded £500,000 of shares under the Company's PSP (LTIP) scheme on his commencement of the chief executive role on 1 November 2011.
- In 2003 Highfield was awarded the Digital Innovator internet award by the Sunday Times (UK) who said his vision of a 100% digital Britain was a "tour de force".
- In 2004 he was named ‘most influential individual in technology’ by online technology news site Silicon.Com
- In May 2006, Broadcast Magazine said Highfield is "increasingly coming to be recognised as one of the most influential figures in world media".
- The Times in a 2008 profile said analysts described Highfield as a man with “the vision thing”.