MPs get sums wrong over buy-up payments

The Mail and MoS paid £425,000 for Ulrika book

Members of Parliament may be up in arms about payments that newspapers are making for buy-ups, but industry sources are far more circumspect about the sums involved.

MPs claim the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday paid up to £100,000 for the Sir Alex Ferguson story and £750,000 for Ulrika Jonsson’s book.

Sources say the MoS bought the Ferguson story off the market for £75,000, topping the £50,000 offered to South African Nadia Abrahams and her boyfriend Brian Ebden by a daily newspaper. The MoS then immediately looked for a partner to share costs. The minute the Sunday Mirror was contacted, it agreed to pay half. An MoS call had also gone into the News of the World, which has since said it decided not to pay Ferguson’s South African accuser.

But newsdesk sources at the MoS claim the NoW was "desperate" for a piece of the action. What NoW editor Rebekah Wade said was that she was dubious about the story but needed pictures for the Ferguson-sympathetic story the paper was going to run. She was furious to discover that another deal had been struck with the rival Sunday Mirror after the NoW’s initial conversations and telephoned MoS editor Peter Wright to tell him so.

She also claimed that the deal was for £90,000 and that the split being offered to them by The MoS would have cost the NoW £45,000.

Peter Bradley, the Labour MP who has written to the Press Complaints Commission about the Jonsson fee, is leading an MPs’ motion over the Ferguson buy-up. He was angry at reports that the MoS and Daily Mail had paid £700,000 for Jonsson’s book. That fee zoomed to £750,000 in party chairman Charles Clarke’s speech at the Society of Editors conference this week.

Yet the actual fee was £425,000, less than the half million offered by Richard Desmond to get Jonsson into his Expresses and OK! magazine. Jonsson did not want her book in a celebrity magazine, according to Press Gazette sources.

Another controversial deal – the Daily Mail’s publication of excerpts from Lord Archer’s prison diaries, where the fee was paid to charity – was done because of a long friendship between Archer and the paper’s consultant editor John Bryant. He visited Archer in his Lincolnshire jail. "Friendship is friendship, warts and all," he said.

By Jean Morgan

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