How the Scott Trust guarantees the independence of the Guardian

The British daily has been held since 1936 by a trust with a fund of 1.1 billion euros.

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The headquarters of the Guardian, London, August 20, 2013.
The headquarters of the Guardian, London, August 20, 2013. SUZANNE PLUNKETT / REUTERS

The two main shareholders of the group Le Monde, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse, are committed to starting discussions to place their shares in a foundation. The form that it would take is not yet defined, but the most obvious comparison is with that of the Guardian.

Read also Le Monde: Matthieu Pigasse and Xavier Niel sign the right of approval claimed by the editorial offices

In a virtually unique model, the British newspaper has been owned since 1936 by the Scott Trust, a structure whose sole purpose is to ensure "The financial and editorial independence of the Guardian for life ", while watching that he continues his "Liberal tradition" (in the English sense of the term, that is to say on the left). This makes it impossible to sell or transfer the property of the Guardian.

The model is difficult to copy, because the Scott Trust is at the head of a fund valued at 1.01 billion pounds (1.14 billion euros) March 31. With an interest rate of 3% per annum, "We can lose about 30 million pounds a year", summarizes Alan Rusbridger, who was editor of the daily between 1995 and 2015.

"It's a fantastic protection"

The Guardian do not hesitate. For the year 2017-2018, Guardian Media Group lost 29 million pounds (33 million euros) of cash. What would be bad news elsewhere was celebrated with dignity as the culmination of a three-year recovery after a staggering loss of £ 86 million in 2014-2015. "We are now in a sustainable financial situation"congratulated Katharine Viner, her editor, when the accounts were released in May.

Mr. Rusbridger believes, however, that even in the absence of a financial buck, a trust may make sense. "It's a fantastic protection (for the newspaper). " Since there is no longer a real owner, and it becomes impossible to sell the newspaper, the newspaper is protected from any financial or political ambitions of its shareholders. The former editor-in-chief of Guardian is convinced that such a structure changes the internal dynamics of the newspaper: " The Guardian has never been managed for commercial purposes and has been in existence for more than two hundred years. "

The Scott Trust was established in 1936 by John Scott, then owner of the newspaper. His father, the legendary C. P. Scott, who had been editor-in-chief for fifty-seven years and had become the owner in 1907, had died four years earlier. His brother was also dead in an accident. Worried about the future of the paper, and fearing a huge inheritance tax bill, John Scott transferred ownership of the newspaper to a trust. It was as much a question of guaranteeing the future of everyday life, then settled in Manchester, as of escaping from the tax authorities.


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