The owner of the Mirror newspapers has sealed a £127m deal with Richard Desmond to buy his Express and Star national titles, as well as celebrity magazine OK!
Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Labour-supporting Daily and Sunday Mirror as well as the Sunday People, has been in talks to buy Desmond’s Brexit-supporting titles since autumn.
The conclusion of the talks, which collapsed three years ago over price and pension deficit issues, marks the most significant consolidation among British national newspapers in decades.
It is likely that the industry regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, will force the two companies to remain separate for up to a year to assess the impact on the wider newspaper market.
In November, Lloyd Embley, the editor-in-chief of the Trinity Mirror titles, warned staff there would be job cuts if the deal went through – but that they would be much worse if a deal failed.
Trinity Mirror, which also owns a large regional newspaper portfolio including the Manchester Evening News and Birmingham Post, employs more than 5,300 staff. About 2,200 of those are in editorial, with 700 of the editorial staff employed on the national titles and 1,500 on the regionals.
The deal marks the end of billionaire Desmond’s 43-year publishing career, which started in 1974 when he was 23 with two music titles.
In 1983, he won the UK licence to publish Penthouse and then a raft of other pornographic titles, including Asian Babes and Horny Housewives. The launch of OK! in 1993 shook up the celebrity magazine world. In 2000, Desmond announced himself as a national newspaper magnate by buying Express Newspapers for £125m.
On completion of the deal, Desmond will hold a minority stake in Trinity Mirror, which will make him one of the publisher’s largest shareholders.