Richard Desmond hasn’t generated the same level of criticism over his purchase of Channel 5 that he did when he bought the Express titles in 2000 for £125m.
Whatever your views about the way he’s made his money, he is certainly a colourful character.
Over the years he’s subjected the genteel management of the Telegraph to a foul-mouthed Nazi tirade, ‘jabbed’ an executive editor and been recorded on tape sounding decidedly sinister when discussing some missing money with a business associate.
He’s made oodles of cash from a newspaper group that people were writing off by taking measures – such as out-sourced subbing, moving to a largely seven-day operation and slashing hundreds of journalists – that rival titles have later adopted .
Here are some of the more dramatic episodes from Press Gazette’s coverage of him over the years.
September 2003: Desmond appeared to be fighting a feud with rival owner Lord Rothermere in the pages of the Daily Express. After the Mail published a story alleging that the Labour party refused a gift of £100,000 from Desmond, the Daily Express published a series of articles about the Mail-owning Rothermere family under the fictional byline Brendan Abbot.
One headline, about an earlier generation of the family, said: “Daily Mail chief’s wife died alone after drug pills binge” while another said: “Cheating Daily Mail boss drove his loving wife to an early grave.”
September 2004: As the Beslan school siege was unfolding in Russia, Desmond made a tour of the Express newsroom and allegedly jabbed Daily Express executive editor Ted Young in the stomach because an obituary of ’60s pop singer Carl Wayne, from The Move, had appeared in the Daily Mail but not the Daily Express. Young later secured a six-figure payout from Express Newspapers.
August 2005: Desmond subjected Telegraph managers to a foul-mouthed Nazi tirade at a meeting of the joint-owned Westferry printing business.
July 2009: During the trial for Desmond’s libel action against Tom Bower a tape was played of a phone-conversation he had with a business associate he was in dispute with over some money.
He said: “Please, please Jafar don’t go on because you’re going to aggravate me. So, look, just send me a cheque back, all right, or we, or we’re not going to be friends. In fact, we’re going to be enemies. OK? And you got till, what’s today, Thursday.
“Let me tell you mate, let me tell you something, let me tell you something Jafar as good a fucking, as good as a friend I am, I am the worst fucking enemy you’ll ever have. Please get me a cheque round, thank you very much.”