The Global Media Weekly for executives and entrepreneurs

Paul Keenan to leave Bauer

Paul Keenan, who joined Bauer Media Group when it acquired the former EMAP radio and magazines divisions in 2008, is quitting, three years after becoming COO.

His departure on Sept 30 this year will give colleagues and competitors the opportunity to consider that the 2008 acquisition proved to be the start of a transformation for Bauer.

After testing, post-acquisition times during which Keenan might have expected to be discarded by the famously secretive, family-owned company, he became the architect of what is now Europe’s largest commercial radio network – and Bauer’s largest business – via a string of acquisitions in Ireland, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. It claims 61mn regular listeners to 150 audio brands in nine countries.

The audio success was momentous change for the German company which had once been defined by its stubbornly large portfolio of print magazines and an exclusive focus on organic growth not M&A.

But the corporate ambition had been signalled (albeit privately) a decade earlier when owner Heinz Bauer was narrowly outbid by private equity in the £1bn 1997 auction for IPC. What was then the UK’s largest magazine publisher was subsequently bought by Time Inc, then by private equity and – in 2020 – by Future.

It had, though, still been a surprise when Bauer swooped to buy the EMAP consumer group and, then, ACP Magazines in Australia. The UK deal became the engine of growth through churning times, while the group subsequently exited its once so-profitable US subsidiary – and also what became the disastrous acquisition in Australia.

Bauer still makes the unfashionable claim of being Europe’s largest magazine producer and the leading publisher of women’s brands. But its growth in audio (now perhaps €750mn of revenue) and price comparison sites (€130mn) has shifted the focus of the media group whose business largely centres on Germany, the UK and Poland. An estimated 70% of the €2bn+ revenue now comes from outside Germany, the majority from radio. A big shift in the last 16 years.

For Keenan, its been a mostly smooth journey since…”A small group of us met with Yvonne Bauer in Stockholm and promised to make Bauer Media as famous for radio as it is for print. We are now Europe’s leading digital commercial radio broadcaster and audio operator, continuing to explore and expand from the world of radio to the universe of audio. From local to national. From the UK to nine countries. From analogue to digital. The audio business is beautiful, and an effective marketing platform that delivers great results.”

“We promised to make Bauer as famous for radio as it was for print”

The COO’s departure from Bauer will mark 32 years since he had become editor of Local Government Chronicle, just before the B2B weekly was itself acquired by EMAP. He seized the opportunity to grow his skills and job prospects at what had become the UK’s fastest growing media group. It seems ho-hum now but, in the pre-web days of the 20th century, the rookie editor launched his new employer’s first online service. LGC Net delivered news to his local government readers via a noisy dial-up modem on the long-forgotten Minitel system.

It was an eye-catching start to what has – effectively – been a single-company career that took Keenan from local government politics, to fashion trade papers and the consumer magazines Elle, Red, FHM, Empire, Mojo, Closer and Heat. By 2005 – three years before the EMAP breakup – he had taken charge of the growing radio network which subsequently propelled him into the upper echelons of Bauer.

The 2024 story is that he will resign as COO and from the Bauer Executive Board but will continue as an advisor to CEO Yvonne Bauer who says he has “changed Bauer for good”. But, while Paul Keenan may be thinking about a post-corporate, plural life, our guess is that UK-based news, magazine and broadcasting groups will have other ideas for him – before Bauer Media Group celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2025.

Bauer Media Group
Total Revenue2.
Op profit0.
Note: Flashes & Flames estimates

Bauer Media Group