Desmond threat to take Associated to the OFT

Desmond has the mayor’s support

Richard Desmond is said to be planning to go to the Office of Fair Trading to dispute Associated Newspapers’ monopoly distribution system for its free morning Metro on Tube and rail stations in London.

This summer Desmond is to launch a new free newspaper for London, directly against the Evening Standard and Metro, and distribution will be a key factor in its fight for survival.

Lawyers for Desmond’s company Northern & Shell lawyers believe Associated is abusing its position and that they have a good case to put before the OFT. Associated sewed up distribution contracts with London Underground and mainline stations at the launch of Metro four years ago – a factor which deterred the Swedish Modern Times company from introducing its free Metro series to London.

This week London Mayor Ken Livingstone made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the Evening Standard over an article on congestion charging. Livingstone has had several run-ins with the Standard and there is no love lost between them.

He then wrote in The Independent on Tuesday that the Standard’s domination of the London market was guarded by Associated’s free Metro “distributed – without competition – at rail and Tube stations”. Livingstone and Desmond have met to discuss the latter’s new publication and Livingstone is supportive.

Modern Times did succeed in getting an underground station contract – with Nexus, which operates the Tyne and Wear underground in Newcastle – only to find that Associated and its local franchisee, Trinity Mirror, waged war on another front – a legal battle over the name Metro.

The Swedish company was forced to change the title of its Newcastle newspaper to Morning News.

Associated is now trying the same tactic with Northern & Shell. It has obtained an interim court order to stop Desmond calling his new London paper the Evening Mail.

Desmond is still consulting his lawyers over a challenge to the order, but in the meantime has agreed not to use the Mail name in any promotion or on any dummy of his free paper pending resolution of the court action.

He does not intend to accept that he cannot use Mail in the title, according to insiders.


After Desmond’s recent attack on the grandfather of Associated owner Lord Rothermere, claiming he said Hitler was right in dealing with the Jewish problem in German, Vyvan Harmsworth, director of corporate affairs at the Daily Mail and General Trust, has written to The Jewish Chronicle.

He refutes any possiblity of the Harmsworth family being anti-Semetic and said that to deliver such a slander to a Jewish audience was “beyond contempt”.

While it was a matter of record that the first Viscount Rothermere supported Sir Oswald Mosley in 1934, said the letter, it was a short-lived flirtation and Rothermere repudiated the association the same year.

By Jean Morgan

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