Richard Desmond, the UK tabloid newspaper baron who combines his four national titles with a soft porn magazine and TV empire, told ‘porkies’ [cockney rhyming slang: pork pies = lies] to the Wall Street Journal, alleges rival tabloid Mail on Sunday.

Desmond is currently embroiled in legal action against the MoS’ parent company Associated Newspapers [WAMN: 25-Feb-03], and a constant target for the daily and weekend Mail titles, megaphones for the strident personal and political views of Jonathan Rothermere, a hereditary peer whose filial inheritance included a newspaper fiefdom.

The latter stepped up his feud with Desmond last weekend by alleging that in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (May 12) Desmond overstated the 2002 operating profits of his privately-held holding company Northern & Shell.

Desmond told the WSJ that N&S posted an operating profit of £60 million ($98.15m; €84.05m) last year on sales of about £405 million - a story that story was picked-up and repeated in the UK by The Sunday Times and The Observer.

But the dutifully suspicious MoS did its digging on Desmond and found that documents filed last week at Companies House show that Northern & Shell filed an operating profit of only £8.8m in 2002, compared with £24m the previous year.

Which raises interesting questions about the veracity of the numbers supplied to Her Majesty’s Government – for according to ‘sources’ at Northern & Shell they exclude the £21 million taken out of the company by Desmond as a personal bonus [WAMN: 06-May-03] and £8.7m of debt ‘forgiven’ by another Desmond-owned company RCD1.

And for reasons best known to N&S, the official filing also omits £15m of newspaper price discounts. But even with all these exclusions factored in, the numbers still don’t add up to the profit claimed by Desmond – falling short by around £6.5m.

It is not known what numbers were supplied to the Inland Revenue.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff