Taking over at a challenging time

Geraldine Allinson is taking the Kent Messenger Group reins from her father, Edwin Boorman
Geraldine Allinson is taking the Kent Messenger Group reins from her father, Edwin Boorman

ON NEW Year’s Day, the Kent Messenger Group will have a new chairman.

Edwin Boorman, 70, steps down after 46 years to make way for his 39-year old daughter Geraldine Allinson.

Trevor Sturgess spoke to both just before they swapped chairs.


AS A teenager, Geraldine Allinson had no thought of joining the family firm.

More interested in volcanoes, the Benenden School girl wanted to become a geologist or vulcanologist. But an urgent call from her father Edwin Boorman in 1985 changed her life.

The Kent Messenger Group was hit by industrial action. Every manager was needed to ensure the papers came out. The then Miss Boorman was asked to come into the Larkfield offices to do her bit.

"I was bitten by the bug, I just loved it," she recalls.

It was the start of learning curve that became steeper with the years. She switched from geology to business studies achieving an honours degree and embarking on a training programme designed to equip her for the chairman’s role.

She learned the business at the Wolverhampton Express and Star, Northcliffe Newspapers, and Star Publishing, Maidstone.

After three years as assistant to Kent Messenger Group chief executive David Lewis, and one year as general manager and associate director, she joined the board. Mrs Allinson is now the youngest chairman in the regional newspaper industry.

"There was a lot of time when I had no thought about being chairman. I didn’t even know I’d be capable of it so over the last three years, I’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops."

But the mother-of-two and wife of Rupert is keen to scotch any impression that she has the job just because of she is her father’s daughter.

"I hope people will see that I am able to do it and not just doing it because of who I am," she said.

She is not frightened of getting her hands dirty. She recently joined a delivery van and dropped off papers at local outlets.

Mrs Allinson is the fourth generation of the Boorman family to head the company. Her great-grandfather Barham Pratt Boorman founded the group in 1890, although its origins go back to the launch of the Maidstone Telegraph in 1859.

She takes over the chairmanship at a challenging time for the media.

"Evening newspapers are in long-term decline, nationals as well, but there’s still a lot of life left in weekly papers."

KMG also runs six radio stations under the kmfm brand, as well as online services.

She says the family would never sell the company. "We are 100 per cent committed to family ownership," she said. And she foresees new titles and more radio stations, but insists the group will stick to the company’s core area - Kent and Medway.

So, what has she learnt from her father? A lot, she says. He’s a hard act to follow, with great attention to detail, the ability to "see the way forward", and willingness to take risks. But she claims she is not as stubborn. She is not sure whether that’s a weakness or a strength.

Mrs Allinson admits she may not be as high-profile as her father - with a young family she has work-life balance to maintain. But she is determined to do all she can to represent the KMG in the best possible way and as widely as possible.

"The focus is going to be very much on the core values and consolidating what we’re already doing, and doing what we do more efficiently and effectively, building on the good things we do already.

"It’s about identifying what is really important to the people of Kent and making sure we provide it."

As the new custodian of the family business, she is conscious of her huge responsibility to its continued success.

And she is already telling her young children about their heritage, hoping that one day they and their cousins will represent the fifth generation of Boormans to work in the company.

Meanwhile, she does not foresee too many changes.

"Succession is a process and not an event. It’s carrying on in the same direction, hopefully people will notice a difference in time, but there’s not going to be a big sea change. I’m looking forward to the challenge very much."

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