Khaleej Times plans relaunch
Bradley Hope for THE NATIONAL Last Updated: July 26. 2008 8:03PM UAE
ABU DHABI // Khaleej Times, a 30-year-old English-language newspaper based in Dubai, is preparing for a major relaunch at the end of August to compete in the region’s rapidly expanding media market.
Sources familiar with the newspaper report that earlier this month the board appointed Rahul Sharma, formerly the Delhi editor of Hindustan Times, as editor and Didier Brun, the former senior vice president of strategy and development at the International Herald Tribune (IHT), as the chief executive. Both declined to comment for this article.
The relaunch of Khaleej Times would come less than six months after the launch of The National, which is printed six days a week by Abu Dhabi Media Company.
Earlier this year Arab Media Group, based in Dubai, relaunched a daily newspaper as a business publication, Emirates Business 24/7.
And the Financial Times recently began publishing a Middle East edition, with increased coverage of the GCC countries. Gulf News, which was established the same year as Khaleej Times, 1978, is also a long-standing English-language publication.
“For years Gulf News and Khaleej Times were the established, must-read papers here,” said Austyn Allison, the managing editor of Communicate magazine. “Now there’s this new competition from The National and other publications. Newspapers are having to change.”
To meet the challenge Khaleej Times has been drawing on resources from abroad. For instance, the paper’s layout is being redesigned by Paula Scher, a partner at Pentagram Design in New York, who has done work for The New York Times Magazine.
Mr Sharma, the new editor, has been given an open-ended budget for hiring reporters and editors from around the world, according to sources familiar with the newspaper.
In early May Khaleej Times announced it had formed a strategic alliance with IHT to print and distribute its newspaper in the UAE. The companies said at the time that further publishing arrangements, including running the IHT as an insert in some editions of Khaleej Times, were potentially on the horizon.
IHT has relationships with nine English-language newspapers around the world in which the local affiliate runs a daily edition of the newspaper as an insert, according to the company’s website.
Achilles Tsaltas, the vice president of circulation and development at the IHT, said that his company had signed the agreement with Khaleej Times in the belief that the newspaper would undergo major changes.
“We are investing in the thinking of Khaleej Times – they are very committed to changing their game,” he said. “They want to emulate The New York Times’s editorial credibility. We’re confident that is where they are heading.”
The Government of Dubai has a considerable stake in Khaleej Times and was pressuring its board members to improve the newspaper, the sources said.
Two years ago the Investment Corporation of Dubai, an investment group owned by the Dubai Government, acquired a 30 per cent share of Galadari Brothers, the parent company of Khaleej Times.
The chairman of the newspaper division is Adel al Shirawi, who is the vice chairman of Istithmar World – an investment group owned by the Dubai Government.
Five of the seven boardmembers are employees of companies wholly owned by either Dubai Holdings – a private company of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – or the Investment Corporation of Dubai.