Business News Deals Media

Trinity Mirror agrees to buy Richard Desmond’s newspapers

By | Published on Friday 9 February 2018

Northern & Shell

Media firm Trinity Mirror – owner of the Daily Mirror – has agreed to buy the publishing assets of Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell company. These include the Daily Express and Daily Star, as well as OK! and New! magazines.

The deal is reportedly worth £126 million – only slightly above the £125 million Desmond paid for the titles in 2000. It also brings to an end Desmond’s near two decade run as a newspaper owner, which will be a relief to many, who have seen him as a negative influence on the British news media.

It will be interesting to see if the editorial line of the Express in particular changes at all under its new owners. The Mirror leans left politically, while the Express goes very much to the right. Trinity Mirror boss Simon Fox said that the newly acquired titles’ politics will not shift, but suggested this morning that there will be some crossover with the Mirror papers.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Fox said that the deal is “a very wise investment” which is expected to make savings for Trinity Mirror of £20 million a year. In part, this will seemingly be achieved by further reducing staff – all newspapers having cut back on headcount considerably in the last decade. Fox went on: “For example, [instead of] sending two reporters to a football game, we can send one”.

However, he added: “The Daily Express is not going to become left-wing and the Mirror is not going to become right-wing”.

The possibility of an Express takeover by Trinity Mirror has been on the cards for several years now. Although in 2015, Desmond said that he wanted the company’s boss to “Fox off”. However, last September it was reported that an agreement was close to being signed off.

In a statement this morning, Desmond says: “The Express Newspapers and our celebrity magazine titles have been a key part of the Northern & Shell portfolio for many years, and I am immensely proud of building them into one of the largest newspaper and magazine groups in the UK. Today’s transformational transaction is a logical and natural next step in the evolution and consolidation of the media sector and will create a larger and stronger platform serving all stakeholders”.

Once the dominant newspapers in the UK, both the Daily Mirror and Daily Express have seen their circulations decline steeply since the 1960s. By the end of last year, the Express was selling fewer than 400,000 copies daily, compared to over a million when Desmond took over. The Mirror now sells under 725,000, compared to almost 2.3 million in 2000.

The Daily Star, meanwhile, is currently shifting just under 450,000 copies per day – not far off the half million it was shifting in 2000, although it did peak at around 780,000 in 2010.