Pedro J. Ramírez will no longer head ‘El Mundo’ daily

Controversial editor to step aside from top job at newspaper he co-founded 25 years ago

Pedro J. Ramírez in 2005. / EFE

The longtime editor of El Mundo, Pedro J. Ramírez, on Wednesday told his closest aides that he will no longer be at the helm of the newspaper he co-founded in 1989, newsroom sources said.

On Thursday the Spanish daily announced that he would be replaced by his deputy, Casimiro García Abadillo. Ramírez is expected to remain with the newspaper in some capacity, as his contract does not end until he turns 65, three years from now.

The change comes at a time of crisis for a newspaper whose editorial line falls right of the political center. Under Pedro J.’s controversial management, however, El Mundo has aggressively pursued stories that were detrimental to both the Socialist Party and the Popular Party (PP), earning him many enemies in Spain.

While rumor has it that the outgoing editor is being axed by the powers-that-be, particularly for his recent coverage of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's connection with jailed former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who says he gave the leader cash-filled envelopes, this would not the first time that Pedro J. has claimed he is being persecuted for his reporting.

In October 1997, a surreptitious video recording was distributed anonymously, showing a sexual encounter between the editor and a woman, with explicit scenes of S&M. Pedro J. did not resign, claiming he was being attacked over his coverage of state-funded anti-ETA death squads named GAL. Six people were convicted for violating his privacy, including two executives from the daily Ya.

His brash and outspoken style has led some critics to describe El Mundo as a tabloid

During his 25-year tenure, El Mundo investigated alleged illegal party financing by the Socialists first, and by the PP conservatives later. Pedro J. also opposed the PP's decision to support the Iraq War, and encouraged a conspiracy theory according to which the terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004 in Madrid were somehow linked to ETA, despite a court finding that they were perpetrated by Islamists.

The opinionated style favored by the brash and outspoken Pedro J. has led some critics to describe El Mundo as a tabloid. The newsroom has also seen its share of internal troubles through the years, including a complaint by a desk chief that El Mundo had deliberately played down the general strike of June 20, 2002.

In recent years, El Mundo's results have dragged down its parent company, the Italian publishing group RCS, which owns over 96 percent of Unidad Editorial. In 2011, the Spanish consortium announced losses of 243 million euros, which rose to 526 million the following year. Only a cash injection from RCS prevented the newspaper from folding.

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