Express owner Desmond considered buying Trinity Mirror

Daily Express owner Richard Desmond considered a takeover of Trinity Mirror and sought the advice of top Goldman Sachs banker Mike Sherwood on the possible deal earlier this year, Campaign can reveal.

Desmond: considered buying, rather than selling to, Trinity Mirror
Desmond: considered buying, rather than selling to, Trinity Mirror

It is understood that Desmond had informal discussions with Sherwood, a vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, but a source close to the Wall Street investment bank maintained it had no formal advisory role or mandate.

If Goldman had had such a role, it would have had to disclose it to the stock market's Takeover Panel. It is thought that Desmond considered various options including taking a stake or leading an investment consortium.

The listed publisher of the Daily Mirror admitted in March that it was in early-stage discussions with Desmond's company, Northern & Shell, about buying "certain assets" but those talks failed to advance significantly, as they wrangled over issues including the pension deficit of Express Newspapers.

It is understood that Desmond went on to seek the advice of Sherwood as he considered pro-active ways to make a deal happen, potentially by becoming buyer rather than seller. Up until now it was believed that Trinity Mirror would be the buyer. 

Desmond has firepower as he is said to be worth close to £1 billion and sold Channel 5 for £463 million last year.

However, Desmond is believed to have cooled on the idea of a move for Trinity Mirror after it closed in on an acquisition for regional newspaper publisher Local World in October in a £220 million deal. Trinity Mirror is now valued at about £450 million.

Desmond usually uses Barclays as his banking advisers and it is not known what role they have played during his informal discussions about Trinity Mirror. Trinity Mirror used Barclays to help with its share placing on the Local World deal.

Northern & Shell and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

When Campaign first approached Trinity Mirror about this story in October, a source close to the company suggested there had been no contact with anyone connected to Goldman Sachs or Desmond about a takeover approach.

Trinity Mirror could not be immediately contacted for further comment tonight.

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