Trinity Mirror has re-opened talks to acquire The Express and Star newspapers from media mogul Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell publishing group.
Confirming the talks, a spokesperson for Trinity Mirror told journalists: “The board of Trinity Mirror plc notes the recent media speculation and confirms that it is at an early stage of discussions towards taking a minority interest in a new company comprising certain of Northern & Shell’s assets.
“No offer has been made and there is no certainty that any agreement will be reached.”
Trinity Mirror had previously been in talks with the group two years ago, but the deal stalled after disagreements over the price and group pensions (which carry a significant deficit).
Following the failed bid, Trinity Mirror turned their focus onto the Local World regional publishing group which they acquired for £220 million, adding more than 100 print titles to the group’s portfolio. Following the acquisition of Local World, Trinity Mirror has not been far from the headlines with widespread editorial cuts and newspaper closures.
So what’s changed since the previous talks broke down?
Richard Desmond appears keen to reduce the size of his media portfolio, having sold Channel 5 and the adult television channels Television X and Red Hot. He also offloaded his adult magazine business which included titles like Asian Babes and Big Ones in 2004.
Media reports suggest that initial talks are based around a plan for Trinity Mirror to take a minority stake in Express Newspapers. This would enable the newspaper groups to merge back office and advertising sales operations and contribute to widespread savings.
Trinity Mirror will be keen for the acquisition to succeed following their failed bid to acquire the i newspaper after they were outbid by Johnston Press and the failure, after just two months, of their own cut-price national daily New Day.
While further consolidation might make great business sense (and you might argue with the current state of the newspaper industry that it is inevitable), questions will undoubtedly be asked if it is in the public’s interest for one organisation to own such a huge swath of the media. Editorial staff will also be incredibly nervous about their futures in an ever shrinking industry.