Trinity Mirror CEO Simon Fox is a brave man. Now he’s on the brink of buying Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell publishing empire, publisher of the Express newspapers and OK! magazine, for a top price of £135m.
Desmond bought the Express in 2000 for £125m but has since extracted many more millions in dividends through a process of ruthless cost cutting. Somehow the Express and stablemate Star titles have survived, even though they can sometimes find nothing better to lead on than the weather forecast (there’s another winner from the self-styled “world’s greatest newspaper” below.) Desmond also sold Channel 5 to Viacom for £463m in 2014.
It leaves Trinity Mirror as one of the biggest players in UK newspapers (the Trinity part is a vast string of local papers) and Fox has succeeded in wringing out a profit from them. Adding Desmond’s collection may help but it’ll be strange if all the titles survive.
As For Desmond, what’s he going to see with all that money? He doesn’t strike you as the retiring kind.