Daily Express boss Desmond eyes Five TV

DAILY Express and Daily Star owner Richard Desmond has joined the bidding for ailing TV station Five, it emerged yesterday.

Desmond, who has trumpeted his £1bn acquisitions war chest in recent weeks, is said to have registered his interest in the asset ahead of today’s first-round deadline.

The newspaper tycoon, who owns the Daily Express and OK! magazine, joins a long line up keen to take ownership.

Others thought to be interested include Endemol, famed for the programmes Big Brother and Total Wipeout, Five’s terrestrial competitor ITV, plus American broadcasters. Endemol is thought to favour a deal because its long-running contract to show Big Brother on Channel 4 expires at the end of this series.

Desmond’s interest has traditionally been in print, but analysts have suggested he would be wise to invest in other media. He already owns Portland, which produces adult TV channels Television X and Red Hot.

Five, formerly known as Channel 5, is owned by RTL. The European broadcaster last year attempted to merge with Channel 4 but is now keen to bow out completely.

The channel, whose hit shows include Neighbours and CSI, made an operating loss of £9.1m last year, but after writeoffs and restructuring costs were accounted for the total loss was £37m.

Desmond, who has a personal fortune of around £950m according to The Sunday Times Rich List, said in a Radio 4 interview recently that the newspaper industry had to consolidate and said he hoped to be in the vanguard of that consolidation. He even hinted he would be in the market to buy The Sun if it ever came up for sale.

In an interview in the Independent he boasts having “so much money it’s ridiculous” and said while he drew a salary of £1m a week for a few years, he now takes just £50,000 annually - as he would rather see his business grow than lose 70 per cent of his cash.