Trinity Mirror has confirmed that it is in talks with a consortium to take over the Sunday People.
Former Sunday Express editor Sue Douglas is behind the plan that could see the paper rebranded to resemble the defunct News of the World.
Last year she was rebuffed by Rupert and James Murdoch after she sought to revive the News of the Word in the wake of its closure in July 2011.
One possibility is that a rebranded title could be called The News of the People.
Former features editor of The Sun Matt Nixson has been linked to the project, which is understood to have significant financial backing.
Journalists working at Trinity Mirror’s national titles are understood to have been briefed today to expect to see speculation about a possible deal.
A spokesman for Trinity Mirror said: “Trinity Mirror plc can confirm it is in very preliminary discussions regarding a joint venture for publishing the Sunday People. There is nothing further to report at this stage. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate.”
The Douglas-led vehicle is called Phoenix Ventures and financial backers include former owner of Sale Sharks rugby club Brian Kennedy and chairman of investment bank Seymor Pierce, Keith Harris.
Press Gazette understands that Trinity Mirror would continue to offer back-office support for The People under the proposed deal and would also retain a stake in any new venture.
Phoenix would effectively “rent” the title from Trinity Mirror whilst seeking to revive its fortunes by providing significant investment. If the revived Sunday People turned out to be a big success, Trinity would be entitled to a slice of the profits.
One well-placed source told Press Gazette: “Sue Douglas believes there is room for a humorous and hard-hitting Sunday tabloid to take on the current crop of red-tops. The Sun Sunday is not as good as the old News of the World and there is clearly a gap in the market left by its demise.
“The People is still a good brand which has a great journalistic history behind it.”
The Sunday People sold 445,594 copies a week in November compared with 1,036,457 for the Sunday Mirror, 363,268 for the Daily Star Sunday and just over 2m for The Sun Sunday.
This compares with around 2.6m copies a week for the News of the World at the time it was shut down.
Ten years ago the Sunday People was selling well in excess of a million copies a week.