Media Lifeline: Richard Desmond

Express Group owner and philanthrope Desmond enjoys a feisty relationship with Associated.

2000: Philanthrope Richard Desmond buys the Express Group for £125 million with profits earned in the celebrity magazine market and "adult industry" by his Northern & Shell company. But he is not welcomed unreservedly by his fellow press barons.

2003: In 2000, Associated Newspapers made some candid comments about Desmond's background in a mailshot to Express readers. Now it alleges that Desmond is not only a pillar of the UK's adult industry but also in a philanthropic relationship with the Labour Party. Desmond's papers respond by suggesting a former Lord Rothermere not only owned Associated, but was also an admirer of an unphilanthropic former leader of the German Reich.

2004: A Teutonic theme is also present when, during a meeting with Telegraph Group executives, Desmond allegedly mimics the aforementioned former German leader not noted for his philanthropy. Telegraph Group - a joint venture partner with Desmond in the West Ferry print works - had been in unrelated negotiations with the German publisher Axel Springer. The philanthropist had found this notion not entirely to his taste.

2005: When the Daily Mail argues that the adult industry is growing too vigorously, the Express accuses Lord Rothermere of being a purveyor of filth - Associated's Loot allegedly carries ads from businesses conducting activities of questionable moral virtue.

2008: An editorial campaign running to more than 100 articles in total, inviting Express and Star readers to form a less-than-charitable opinion of the parents of the missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann, furnishes a new outlet for Desmond's philanthropic activity. In an out-of-court settlement, he agrees to make a donation of £550,000 to the organisation set up to help locate Madeleine.


2010: Following the publication in The Sun of an article casting doubt on the nutritional benefits of bananas (Desmond is allegedly very keen on yellow-peeled soft fruit), Desmond's newspapers once more enhance their reputation for forthrightness and plain-speaking in such a way that Desmond is afforded even further scope to extend his philanthropic activities.