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Trinity Mirror in talks to buy Express and Star newspapers

It has been a long courtship, with enough bust-ups and dalliances with rival suitors to make excellent tabloid fodder. Two years after Richard Desmond, owner of the Express and Star newspapers, publicly insulted Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox when takeover talks broke down, the pair are nearing a deal.
Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Mirror and Sunday People tabloids, as well of a slew of local newspapers, told investors on Friday it was in exclusive negotiations with Mr Desmond to acquire the Express and Star titles outright. It did not say what price was under discussion, but it is likely to be less than the ?125m Mr Desmond paid 17 years ago.
The planned deal, which would be subject to shareholder and competition approval, comes months after it emerged Trinity Mirror was considering taking a stake in a new holding company that aimed to acquire the newspapers. The architect of that scheme, the veteran newspaper entrepreneur David Montgomery, now appears to have been cut out of the talks.
Instead, the Express and Star are due to directly become part of Trinity Mirror, increasing its share of the national newspaper market to around 29pc.
The combination would represent the latest phase of Mr Fox’s effort to cope with tumbling print tabloid advertising and circulation revenues by through consolidation and cost cuts.
By combining the Mirror’s back office, production, sales and distribution functions with those of the Express and Star, he aims to deliver tens of millions of pounds of savings that will help maintain profitability.
Trinity Mirror in talks to buy Express and Star newspapers

Richard Desmond

Credit:
 EDDIE MULHOLLAND
Trinity Mirror has pursued the same strategy in its local newspaper business, which was bolstered by 2015’s ?220m takeover of Local World, publisher of more than 200 titles. That deal, engineered in partnership with Mr Montgomery, led to sharp cuts in frontline newsrooms, with editorial resources spread more widely.
Over time, Mirror, Express and Star newsroom costs could also be shared, although Trinity Mirror has pledged it will not interfere with the editorial line of its acquisitions. While the Mirror is a staunchly Labour-supporting tabloid, under Mr Desmond the Express has been firmly right-wing, offering support to Ukip.
Talks between the the two sides have developed this year after breaking down in 2015. Then, Mr Desmond accused Mr Fox of using the prospect of a deal to shore up Trinity Mirror’s share price with “smoke and mirror tactics”, a reference to the Trinity Mirror chief executive’s membership of the Magic Circle.
Mr Desmond, who first made his fortune as publisher of adult magazines, completed his attack on Mr Fox by saying he hoped he “Fox off”.
The planned sale of the Express and Star would bring an end to Mr Desmond’s stint as a mainstream media owner. He acquired the Express and Star in 2000 for ?125m, and went on to own Channel 5, using them to promote other ventures such as the Health Lottery. He sold Channel 5 to Viacom three years ago for ?463m.
His Northern & Shell holding company could retain ownership of the Express and Star printworks in Luton and seek to sell the site separately for redevelopment.
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