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Talks back on for Trinity Mirror to do deal with Desmond on Express and Star titles

By Dominic Ponsford

The publisher of the Daily Mirror newspaper has confirmed talks are under way to acquire a minority stake in Daily Express publisher Northern and Shell.

Trinity Mirror last held discussions about acquiring some of Richard Desmond’s titles in early 2015.

But the talks came to nothing and were ended in typically forthright style by Desmond when Express Newspapers said in December of that year that he was irritated by what he saw as the “Mirror Group’s using his name and prolonging the idea of a deal perhaps as a cheap means of shoring up their share price”.

It said he that he had his “own plans for the future of Northern and Shell” and added: “I would prefer it if the Mirror boss Fox off.” Trinity Mirror’s chief executive is Simon Fox.

Trinity Mirror instead bought regional press group Local World which has since been subject to drastic editorial cutbacks across the board.

Trinity Mirror discussions with Northern and Shell are at an “early stage”, the company said.

It said: “The board of Trinity Mirror plc notes the recent media speculation and confirms that it is at an early stage of discussions towards taking a minority interest in a new company comprising certain of Northern & Shell’s assets.

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“No offer has been made and there is no certainty that any agreement will be reached.”

Desmond acquired the Express and Star titles in 2000 for £125 million. Taking a minority stake in the Express titles could be a precursor to a full buyout, as was the case with the Local World group.

In addition to its national newspaper titles, Northern and Shell publishes OK!, New! and Star Magazines and runs the Health Lottery and Westferry Printers.

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