Trinity Mirror has confirmed that it is in talks to buy the Express and Star newspaper titles as well as magazines including OK from Richard Desmond.
The company issued a statement indicating that it had broken off discussions around a joint venture to share sales and back office operations at the two companies.
Instead the publisher of the Daily Mirror newspaper has confirmed talks are under way to acquire 100 per cent of Northern and Shell.
Trinity Mirror previously 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 in December of that year that he said 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 in a £220m deal, since then making drastic editorial cutbacks across the board at its titles.
Trinity Mirror said today: “Further to the announcement made on 10 January 2017 the Board of Trinity Mirror plc notes that it is now in discussions to acquire 100 per cent of the publishing assets of Northern & Shell and that it has ceased discussions to acquire a minority stake in a new company comprising the publishing assets of Northern & Shell.
“There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed or completed. Any acquisition would require the approval of Trinity Mirror shareholders.
“A further announcement will be made when appropriate.”
Trinity Mirror is already the largest regional newspaper publisher in the UK by some margin.
Trinity Mirror’s existing daily national title the Daily Mirror has a circulation of 625,278. Desmond’s Daily Express sells 380,632 and the Daily Star sells 421,812.
The combined circulation of the three titles would still place them just behind The Sun’s 1,568,250.
Associated Newspapers’ Metro and Mail titles have a combined daily circulation of nearly 3m.
Desmond paid £125m for the Express titles in 2000.