Clissitt leaves The Guardian – Telegraph next stop?

Ben Clissitt, who has run the sports desk at The Guardian for more than a decade, is to leave the company, Guardian News and Media announced this afternoon.

Clissitt, a committee member of the SJA, is hotly tipped to take over as head of the sports department at the Telegraph group, following last month’s departure of David Bond, the Daily Telegraph‘s sports editor, to become sports editor at the BBC.

In an intriguing statement, light on detail, posted at lunchtime, GNM stated:

“A series of executive changes at Guardian News and Media will see head of sport Ben Clissitt leave, deputy editor Paul Johnson replace him and Georgina Henry become the head of culture.

Clissitt became sports editor at the Guardian in 1999 having previously run the City office and worked on G2. Before joining the Guardian he worked for the Independent on Sunday.

Johnson will remain as deputy editor and take on the role of running sports coverage across the Guardian, Observer and Since the Guardian‘s move to Kings Place, he has overseen the integration of the news, business and sports departments.

Clissitt has headed many observers’ lists of the likely new head at Telegraph sport. At GNM, he was promoted to head of sport, overseeing The Guardian, Observer and the newspapers’ websites, in 2008 soon after being headhunted for a similar role at the Telegraph. Then, it was suggested that Clissitt turned his back on a £50,000 per year salary hike.

Today’s announcement will only serve to stoke speculation that the Telegraph may have finally got their man.

However, given the parlous state of GNM’s own finances, with losses running at £100,000 per day and its need to make further 100 job cuts, there may be other reasons.

As one member of Clissitt’s erstwhile staff pointed out, “He’s no reason to leave. In fact, if he takes redundancy, he stands to collect at least a year’s salary, which he would not get if he resigns to go to another job.”

But the Telegraph proposition is also different from when Clissitt was first approached two years ago. Mark Skipworth, the executive with responsibility for the sports departments on the daily and Sunday newspapers and their website, is now more occupied with editing the newspaper each Saturday, while the round of job cuts at the papers seems to have abated.

And, for all the cuts at the Telegraph, its sports editor still enjoys probably the best departmental budget of the whole of what is referred to as Fleet Street, perhaps with the exception of the Daily Mail.

Clissitt was not immediately available when called by

More on sports desk job cuts:

Map of UK media job cuts in 2009

McKenley and Smith to leave Standard sports desk

Sport magazine sacrificed in Observer redesign

Another 70 jobs under the axe at Express group

Rugby writer Roche is latest Sun casualty

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