The publisher of the Daily Mirror is in exclusive talks with Richard Desmond to buy the Daily Express, Sunday Express and Daily Star, in a deal thought to be worth about £130m.
Trinity Mirror has made the move after a wider deal – led by former Mirror executive David Montgomery – to combine the back office and sales businesses of the two publishers failed after months of negotiations.
“Trinity Mirror notes that it is now in discussions to acquire 100% of the publishing assets of Northern & Shell and that it has ceased discussions to acquire a minority stake in a new company comprising the publishing assets of Northern & Shell,” the company said.
The deal also includes Northern & Shell magazines including OK!, New! and Star.
Rumours had been circulating that Trinity Mirror was in parallel talks over its own direct deal, spurred as Montgomery’s hunt for financial backers and completing due diligence became protracted over the summer.
However, Trinity Mirror had previously denied takeover talks with Desmond when asked by the Guardian.
The two companies held talks about a potential deal over two years ago. The negotiations fizzled out, however, over disagreements about price and the pension deficit at Desmond’s paper.
Instead, chief executive Simon Fox paid £220m for regional newspaper group Local World – created by Montgomery merging assets including the regional newspapers owned by the Daily Mail publisher.
Breaking the talks with Express Newspapers enraged Desmond, who slashed the cover price of his tabloids in a bid to spark a price war with rivals.
Trinity Mirror warned there is no guarantee that a deal with Desmond will be done.
However, given the deterioration in the market since the last talks over two tests ago – and Desmond’s desire to move away from media assets into property – observers believe there is a good chance the deal gets done this time.