This is a job and a half and no mistake. Mimi Turner (pictured), European television editor of the Hollywood Reporter, is joining Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell as its first group communications director.
Desmond owns UK terrestrial broadcaster Channel 5 of course so Turner’s experience looks a good fit. But the rumbustious tycoon is also the owner of the Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday and Daily Express newspapers and Turner is likely to find herself dragged near to the fire raging among the UK tabloid press sooner than either she or Desmond would like.
Desmond has already suffered one painful singeing when he appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics earlier in the year and seemed somewhat confused about the meaning of the word ‘ethics’ and its relevance to his newspapers. The bold as brass media magnate was certainly embarrassed, something neither friend nor foe ever expected to see.
So far Desmond’s tabloids have not been accused of phone hacking. paying policemen or any of the other alleged abuses afflicting Rupert Murdoch’s News international stable (no, we’re not talking about Rebekah Brooks’s police horse). Cynics would say that’s because Desmond has cut all the budgets to the bone and they couldn’t afford to.
Is a former hack rather than a PR pro the best choice for such a challenging job? Well 20 or so years ago Desmond’s pal Martin Sorrell persuaded the FT’s marketing correspondent Feona McEwan to join the nascent WPP in a similar role.
At the time Sorrell was regarded by the ad world in much the same way Desmond is now by his media peers; that is, as a cost-cutting barbarian who would ruin the entire industry if he wasn’t stopped. He wasn’t of course and McEwan’s spirited labours have had much to do with his image improving somewhat. So there’s hope for Turner too.