Express Newspapers boss Richard Desmond has stunned journalists for the second time in a week. First he outlined his plan to cut 145 staff, and now he is said to be paying a £1m-plus to Jason Fraser, Britain’s most successful celebrity photographer, to mastermind his titles’ picture coverage.
And Desmond is rumoured to be forking out another £250,000 salary to poach Mirror showbiz columnist Charlie Catchpole.
Both will work across the Daily and Sunday Express and Daily Star, though Catchpole’s main spot will be for the Daily Express.
Fraser, 34, who rejects the title "paparazzo", will add OK! to his portfolio in his new role as Northern & Shell executive director, reporting directly to the chairman and sitting on the board. He has not worked for a company since he spent 18 months with the News of the World at 21.
His will be an almost vertical learning curve as he leaves photography behind to make presentations to advertisers, investors and TV companies to secure "groundbreaking" exclusives and to have creative input across the company. But he joked: "If there is a £1m buy-up I might dust my cameras down and decide it’s in the best interests of the group."
Rival papers are desperately searching for a celebrity photographer who comes anywhere near Fraser because Express Newspapers will now get first call on his pictures. He has had 75 front-page photographs this year.
The seven agencies and 30 photographers who supply him are supporting him in this, he told Press Gazette. His archive pictures will still be available — at a fee and after Desmond’s papers have taken their pick.
Of his decision to take up the N&S role, Fraser said: "I felt I had really done everything I could in the jobs I did. It seemed time to try to push myself a bit."
Desmond’s personality was a key factor. "I liked his style straight away — very direct. That was one of the main lures and the fact that he has a very good, close management team."
Fraser, who met the Express Newspapers editors on Tueday, does not intend to interfere editorially.
He wants to make the Express and Star the places where agencies and freelances come "first and only".
"I want the circulations of the papers to go through the roof," he announced.
by Jean Morgan