Mirror owner to clinch £127m Express takeover

4 February 2018, 13:15

Richard Desmond's 17-year status as one of Britain's most prominent newspaper proprietors will reach its denouement this week when he clinches a £127m deal to sell the Daily Express to the publisher of the Daily Mirror.

Sky News understands that Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell, Mr Desmond's company, are targeting Friday for an announcement about ‎the transaction.

A source close to Trinity Mirror, which is also the UK's biggest regional newspaper-owner, said the terms of the deal meant that Mr Desmond would not be fully paid out until 2023.

The billionaire tycoon will receive an immediate £42m cash payment, £20m in Trinity Mirror shares, another £60m deferred over five years and a further £5m relating to approvals by Irish competition authorities.

A further sum of about £40m will be paid into the pension schemes of the two newspaper companies, following talks with their respective trustees.

The takeover of Northern & Shell by Trinity Mirror will see some of the UK's best-selling red-top tabloids, including the Daily Star and Sunday Express, as well as the celebrity features magazine OK! changing hands.

Mr Desmond has held on-off talks for years with Simon Fox, the Trinity Mirror chief executive, with the latest round of discussions getting underway more in January 2017.

The deal's structure changed last autumn, when Mr Fox decided he wanted to own 100% of the Northern & Shell rather than holding a stake in another company established by the former Mirror Group Newspapers boss, David Montgomery.

One source close to the talks between Mr Desmond and Trinity Mirror cautioned that the timing of the deal's announcement could yet slip.

"There's still a lot of work to do," the insider said this weekend.

Mr Desmond's decision to sell the titles he acquired in late 2000 comes as the newspaper industry faces continuing headwinds, with publishers racing to slash costs to keep pace with sharply declining advertising revenues.

The tycoon is now focused on a string of property ventures and a potential bid for the licence to run the National Lottery.

He will become one of Trinity Mirror's largest shareholders if the deal completes, although he has not asked for a seat on the company's board.

Mr Desmond has made hundreds of ‎millions of pounds from his ownership of the newspapers, and was similarly successful during a briefer period at the controls of Channel 5.

He made his first fortune as the proprietors of adult television channels and magazines.

Shareholders in Trinity Mirror, which has a market value of just £186m, will have a formal vote on the takeover of Mr Desmond's newspapers before the deal is finalised.

Trinity Mirror declined to comment, while Mr Desmond could not be reached.