Northern & Shell expects profits at Express Newspapers this year to be five times what they were when Richard Desmond bought the company in November 2000.
That’s despite falling sales on the Daily and Sunday Express.
Joint deputy managing director Stan Myerson claimed that this year’s profit from the newspapers, which include the Daily Star, will amount to £69 to £70m.
Myerson was speaking at the launch of an eight-page pull-out Careers section for the Daily Express, which appeared for the first time this Thursday, despite the general downturn in recruitment advertising.
Myerson said that when N&S spent £125m to buy the group, it borrowed £97.5m and had already paid back £50m, all out of the group’s cash flow.
Of the £14m profit in 2000, Myerson said £6m came from Westferry, the Express’s joint printing venture with the Telegraph Group, leaving only £8m profit from the newspapers.
N&S had cut out wasteful practices and reinvested in the papers, updating the typeface, layout and design, up-grading the newsprint, adding 16 pages of colour, increasing pagination and hiring "top talent" from rivals, he said.
The Daily Star had been given increased pagination and budgets which had enabled editor Peter Hill to make radical improvements, Myerson pointed out, resulting in a 16.2 per cent rise in sales year-on-year.
"We are investors in our news-papers," he insisted. "Express News-papers has always had huge potential but no one over the years has really loved the products and invested in them properly."
He and chairman Desmond were always "at the end of the phone" for customers and suppliers, Myerson stated, adding: "Our dream is to win and to travel the road of success for our newspapers."
Substantial investment has been made in the Careers supplement, the idea of careers editor Andrea Watson, a sub-editor on the Daily Star for nine years before she moved to her present post, and Jon Notley, the recruitment advertising manager. The careers section has previously been within the main paper but will now be a pull-out in the centre. It will have three pages of editorial.
Notley said that even in the economic downturn, there were still skills shortages in many sectors. "Most people will change career six times or more in their lifetime these days," he predicted. "Gone are the days when a job change looks bad on your CV. Today employers think there is something wrong with you if you stay in the same job year after year."
The expanded editorial would not forget that the world of work was not all "one big happy family", he said, promising it would crusade on behalf of workers, especially the young and socially excluded.
By Jean Morgan