Northern & Shell boss Richard Desmond has paid back all the debt he incurred to buy Express Newspapers and was still able to pay cash for a future home for his newspapers and magazines.
The Daily and Sunday Express, Daily and Sunday Star, OK! and New! magazines will be moving to an imposing City of London 10-storey office building in 2004, the former home of HSBC.
On the north bank of the Thames, close to Tower Bridge, the stepped building has double the space the publications now occupy in Ludgate House and 10 outside lifts.
Desmond would not comment on the price he paid HSBC but the property has been on the market for some time and bids were thought to have been in the area of £40m. He intends to utilise all the 198,000 square feet at Upper Thames Street for his existing newspapers and magazines and for planned expansion, including the mooted new free evening newspaper for London he says he will launch this summer.
His spokesman said all of the loan to Commerzbank, made to help him buy the Express Newspapers three years ago for £125m, has been repaid and he had the cash to make the new freehold buy.
This week Desmond was on holiday in Barbados with his family, well satisfied that the only loan he now has to repay is a £38m mortgage on his Broughton, Lancashire, print plant. He also owns a Docklands building where his soft-porn magazines are produced, part of which is sub-let. It leaves him in a good position for further borrowing should he feel the necessity.
He told staff that buying the HSBC property, as grand as Ludgate House where he currently rents space from Lord Hollick, demonstrated “our commitment to a major newspaper publishing centre in the City of London”.
He said it could not have been achieved without their hard work.
“You have been backing me and I am sure you can see from this huge investment that I am backing you,” he stated.
HSBC built its headquarters for £80m and will move out at the end of the year.
By Jean Morgan