Brit Newspaper Barons Settle Tax Tiff

24 January 2003

Lord Clive Hollick, chief executive of United Business Media and former owner of Express Newspapers, has dropped his legal action against Richard Desmond, the controversial porn publisher who bought the Express properties from UBM for £125 million ($202.64m; €188.46m) in November 2000.

At issue was the little matter of £9m in unpaid taxes outstanding at the time the three national newspapers (Daily and Sunday Express and The Daily Star) changed hands. But the case was far from clear-cut, with a judge ruling last May that that it was too complex for resolution at an initial examination and would need a full hearing.

The matter ballooned into a feud of which the Hatfields and McCoys would have been proud, especially in the mutually occupied office building shared by the warring duo. Their enmity extended to such life and death matters as electricity bills, use of elevators and even sandwich machines.

However, the minds of the quarrelsome pair were concentrated wonderfully by the loud ticking of lawyers’ meters and Desmond has now agreed to assume liability for the tax bill which UBM argued he acquired along with the assets.

In compromise, Desmond’s privately owned acquisition vehicle Northern & Shell will pay UBM £6.8m rather than the full £9m it has been withholding from the sale proceeds.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff