Desmond: ‘I’m no Robert Maxwell’
Richard Desmond, about to launch a London newspaper against the Evening Standard, has attacked the Rothermere family and delivered a bold warning to the evening paper’s current proprietor.
Speaking at a Jewish educational trust meeting this week, Desmond said he had heard how Associated Newspapers had dealt with previous rivals to the Standard.
“I am told how Vere Rothermere, the late owner of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard, dealt with Robert Maxwell, forcing him to spend millions to cock up the London Daily News.
“Vere Rothermere is also the man whose father said Hitler was right in dealing with the Jewish problem in Germany and how those same plans should be replicated in Britain.
“Well, I have a message for Vere’s son, Jonathan. I am not Robert Maxwell and I have a plan for dealing with the likes of you and your associates.
“When I take something on, I am very focused, and I have a focused team who have launched close to 50 publications, most against a market leader who thought they had a divine right to operate exclusively in that piece of the market, so I am used to fighting arrogant competitors – and I go to the gym three times a week.”
Desmond then warned: “Jonathan Harmsworth – we’re coming!”
He said he was not a man to accept second place, recalling how he had launched OK! magazine in 1993 against market leader Hello! and was now outselling it.
Reminding his audience he had just appointed Nick Ferrari as editor of the free Evening Mail, Desmond detailed how he had expanded the rest of his Northern & Shell publishing empire, particularly Express Newspapers.
“The Express titles are now selling over a million copies a day and reflect the views of people like us – people with get up and go,” he said.
“I am continuing to invest, and this year our promotional budget is over £60m, and every week so far this year we have seen our titles advertised widely on television.
“I still believe the natural circulation of the Express and Daily Star is about 50 per cent ahead of where we are now and, as I have said before, I am determined to get there.
“All my life I feel I have been looking in a shop window at this fantastic train set. Now I own it, and prize it.”
Desmond has often been criticised for interfering with the editorial of his papers, but he insisted: “Of course I don’t interfere in the editorial side, but sometimes I have an idea for the presentation of these stories.
“I liken myself to the owner of a restaurant – my chef, who is the editor, makes a delicious cake, but I sometimes can add a cherry on the top to make it look a little brighter with the contents that are already there.”
By Jean Morgan