Death of ex-West Midlands TM managing director

A businessman who held a series of senior roles in the regional press industry has died aged 59 after suffering a heart attack while playing tennis. John Bills (pictured) started out as an advertising rep for the Mansfield Chad in the 1980.

He went on to become a regional managing director with two publishing giants, first with Trinity Mirror and subsequently with Johnston Press.

Born and brought up in Mansfield, John left the Chad to join Trinity Newspapers. He later helped oversee the merger with Mirror Group which created Trinity Mirror and became regional MD for the new company’s North West and North Wales division, based in Liverpool.

He then moved to Birmingham as West Midlands regional MD where, in 2007, he was involved in a bid to buy the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph in a management buy-out after TM put the titles up for sale. But Trinity Mirror rejected the bid and shortly afterwards John and the other two executives who had fronted the proposed buy-out left the business

The following year he joined Johnston Press, which by then owned his former paper, the Chad. His career came full circle in 2011 when he was appointed managing director for JP’s North Midlands and South Yorkshire division which included the Mansfield weekly. John was promoted to group managing director in 2014, leaving in 2017. 

He finally left JP in September 2017, prior to its re-emergence as JPI Media last year.

John had recently retired with his partner, Jo, to a new home in Northern Ireland, where he died while playing tennis.