PIERS MORGAN, the editor of The Mirror, yesterday confirmed that he had bought around £20,000 worth of Viglen Technology shares the day before his newspaper published an "exclusive" story saying that the company was launching a separate internet division.|
Shares in Viglen, Sir Alan Sugar's computer hardware company, jumped from 181p to 366p the following day after Sir Alan had confirmed the story. They closed at 225.5p yesterday.
Mr Morgan bought the shares on Jan 17 in his own name through Kyte Securities. The Mirror article appeared under the headline "Sugar to Join Net Goldrush". Mr Morgan confirmed last night: "I bought about £20,000 worth of them. They were about 150p." He had not sold the shares which he perceives as a "long-term investment".
The editor said he had not known that the two financial journalists Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, who are in charge of the paper's City pages, were publishing a story on the stock the following day. Mr Morgan said: "It was nothing to do with the column. I never see the City column before the market shuts, the first I see of it is around 6.30pm or 7pm in the evening."
He was surprised when the share price soared. "I was amused when I saw it; I was going to buy them anyway. I believe in Alan Sugar. He is a columnist here and it is a good company." While The Mirror named the stock as one of its share tips of the year, Mr Morgan said: "Everyone was tipping them. I didn't buy them before they were made share tip of the year." He said Viglen's move into internet-related activities was well known. Mr Morgan added: "I don't buy that many shares and I am scrupulous about how I do it."
The Code of Practice for the newspaper industry recommends that journalists must not "buy or sell, either directly or through nominees of agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future."
The code adds: "It is essential to the workings of an agreed code that it be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit." When asked to comment on his share purchases in the light of the code, Mr Morgan said: "You tell me how the code of coduct works. Everyone else had been tipping them. I would never do anything improper; I do not go sneaking over to see what The Mirror's tip of the day was."
23 January 2000: [Alan Sugar] City profile: The prophet of profit
27 September 1999: [Features] Boy Morgan grows up