Desmond sets sights on Sunday Business

Richard Desmond

 Express Newspapers boss Richard Desmond is said to be keen to acquire another newspaper – the Barclay brothers’ Sunday Business.

Business news is a strong interest of Desmond’s and insiders say there are ongoing internal discussions about the possibility of him making a bid. But no approaches have yet been made to the Barclays’ Press Holdings company.

Although Desmond has said he is interested in extending his empire in the direction of broadcasting, his strategy for Sunday Business could be to include it as an insert in the Sunday Express, boosting the title’s business coverage, claim sources.

It would be a real about-turn in relations between Express Newspapers and Press Holdings if Desmond bought Sunday Business. When the Daily and Sunday Express and Daily Star were last on the market, it was Press Holdings that did the bidding and lost out to Desmond’s Northern & Shell.

Loss-making Sunday Business, a niche market quality newspaper, acquired by the Barclays in 1997, has never reached its target circulation but is admired for its journalism.

In August its sales figure was 55,288, down year-on-year by 11.84 per cent.

Andrew Neil, Sunday Business publisher, told Press Gazette it was not on the market, but added: "If somebody offered us a lot of money we would consider it. In a market economy everything is for sale at the right price. But it is no more for sale than The Daily Telegraph or The Times is for sale."

Neil said he knows that Desmond is a huge fan of the paper. "He loves the paper. Long before he bought the Express, he called me out of the blue, and I don’t know him very well, to say what a great paper it is and that he had been scouring Barbados to get a copy because he was missing it while he was on holiday."

Associated Newspapers now distributes Sunday Business but a bid for it is not thought to be high on the company’s agenda.

A spokesman for Northern & Shell said: "Following the successful commercial steps taken by the Express titles in less than a year under Northern & Shell, the company continues to look at all opportunities for potential future acquisitions across a range of media."

By Jean Morgan

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