Red top shake-up: Mirror to buy Express and Star for £127m

Sale marks the end of an era for publisher Richard Desmond

The Mirror’s infamous left-wing chicken mascot talks to police at a protest

The publisher of the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror newspaper is buying its conservative red-top rivals for £127m in a major shake-up of the UK’s tabloid business.

Trinity Mirror will acquire Northern and Shell’s Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday, plus celebrity magazines OK!, New! and Star, the Daily Mirror reports. It will also hold a 50% stake in the Irish Daily Star.

The Financial Times calls the sale “one of the biggest” Fleet Street deals “since the Barclay brothers bought The Daily Telegraph in 2004”. The BBC claims the merger is about survival, saying: “Fifty years ago, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express were Britain’s two biggest papers, selling more than eight million copies a day. Today, their combined sales are less than a million and continuing to fall.”

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The deal marks the end of tycoon Richard Desmond’s colourful publishing career. The 66-year-old chairman of Northern and Shell started out with two music titles in 1974 and expanded with the UK edition of Penthouse and pornographic titles such as Horny Housewives. He bought Express Newspapers for £125m in 2000 and is expected to retain a 10% share in the merged company.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority will probably want to examine the deal, but Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox says the combined circulation of the group’s national titles would still be less than The Sun’s and would not dominate the ad market, The Guardian reports.

Fox told the BBC that the publications would retain their identities: “The Daily Express is not going to become left-wing and the Mirror is not going to become right-wing.”

It is not clear how the Mirror plans to bed down the until-now bitter rivals, however.

Desmond’s Brexit-backing Express has a Conservative-pleasing front-page formula of migrant news, health and weather, whereas the Mirror is a staunch Labour backer. Days before the 2010 election, the Mirror ran a front-page photo of then Tory leader David Cameron with a massive red cross over his face and the headline “HOW TO STOP HIM”.

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