Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Daily Mirror, Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo, is in talks with Richard Desmond with a view to buying the Daily Express.
The Times reported today that negotiations between Trinity and Desmond, who bought the Express and stablemate the Daily Star for £125m in 2000, had reached an “advanced” stage.
And now Trinity has confirmed the talks, releasing a statement to confirm: “The board of Trinity Mirror notes the recent media speculation and confirms that it is at an early stage of evaluating certain of Northern & Shell’s assets.
“There is no certainty that any agreement will be reached in respect of the range of outcomes currently under consideration. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”
Desmond had asked his long-term advisers, Barclays, to sound out buyers for the Express back in December.
He is generally thought to have overseen a period of editorial decline at the newspaper, which has seen print sales slump while bitter rival the Daily Mail has become a global powerhouse. In September 2014 print sales of the Express stood at under 468,000, down 11% year on year.
It has remained profitable, though: Express Newspapers, including the Express and Star titles, made a pre-tax profit of £30.4m in 2013, although revenues fell by over 8%.
The company has kept a notoriously tight grip on staff costs, shedding large numbers of staff and keeping pay frozen since 2008.
It has a significant Northern operation in Broughton, near Preston.