Richard Desmond rubbishes talk of Express sale: 'I would prefer it if the Mirror boss Fox off'

Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond has denied “rumours” of a potential sale to Trinity Mirror.

The Daily Express reports that its owner has “never spoken” to Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox about a potential sale and is “irritated by what he sees at the Mirror Group’s using his name and prolonging the idea of a deal perhaps as a cheap means of shoring up their share price although that, he feels, would be for the regulator to decide”.

The chairman said he has his "own plans for the future of Northern and Shell" and added: "I would prefer it if the Mirror boss Fox off."

Desmond told the Express he has met Fox twice – once “briefly” at the Pride of Britain awards and “once many years ago during Mr Fox’s period with the ill-fated HMV”.

Trinity Mirror confirmed it was "at an early stage of evaluating certain of Northern & Shell's assets" in March this year. 

But Press Gazette revealed later that month that Local World, and not Express Newspapers, was Trinity Mirror's main target. This deal was confirmed at the end of October.

Desmond told the Express: "It is true that an approach was made through Barclays Capital about the possibility of the Mirror buying the Express group, but I personally never had a conversation and never heard of any proposal that seemed to relate to the real world.

"Meanwhile during the same period we tried through a major global investment house to arrange a meeting so that we ourselves could buy the Mirror Group. Whilst their Chairman David Grigson was interested, I understand Mr Fox blocked the meeting so it did not happen."

Desmond added: "For the avoidance of doubt I have spent 40 years building up the only major private media group in the UK, with massive cash reserves should we wish to make an acquisition, and advertising access to 38.5 million people or 74 per cent of the population of the UK. 

"Through our aggressive pricing policy the Daily Star sales are up some 20 per cent, a rise unprecedented in current times, and the Daily Express may well adopt the same strategy in the New Year.

"Meanwhile the Mirror based on industry estimates were last Thursday down 29.4 per cent year on year, their worst figure to date. They discount ads to safeguard short-term appearances but their titles are only heading one way…

“I have my own plans for the future of Northern and Shell, I have the resources to invest and the determination to expand and grow right across the group. Under the circumstances I would prefer it if the Mirror boss Fox off."

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