'We will turn round Channel 5,' says Richard Desmond

The proprietor of the Express and OK! - and now Five - is one of the most divisive figures in the British media. In an exclusive interview, Richard Desmond talks about being loathed by staff, turning around the broadcaster, and his attempts to buy the Sun and the News of the World.

Richard Desmond: 'We will turn round Channel 5, same as we did with Express Newspapers'
Richard Desmond: 'We will turn round Channel 5, same as we did with Express Newspapers'

There is something spookily unsettling about the top floor of the Northern & Shell building in the City of London.

Located next door to the old Billingsgate fish market, it used to be the home of Midland Montagu until that bank was subsumed by HSBC. All blue glass on the outside, it's also modern on the inside - until you reach the highest level, occupied by Northern & Shell's chairman, Richard Desmond.

Then, you come out of the steel and glass lift, to be confronted by a deep-carpeted foyer and a dizzying array of closed, unmarked wooden doors. It's quite weird - are there rooms behind them, who is there, what do they hide?

The uniformed butler leads me to a door that is identical to the rest. But on the other side is what must rank as one of the most spectacular offices I've ever seen. There's a desk at one end and a meeting table at the other, and a sofa in-between.

However, substantial as they are, they seem lost in a room that is positively huge, extending the entire width of the building, and against a backdrop that takes in the length of the Thames in central London, from Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge in the east to the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament in the west.

'Christ, it's enormous,' I volunteer, 'it must be among the world's biggest offices.' 'I should hope so,' says Desmond, merrily puffing on a cigar.

Few people in British business arouse such strong feelings as Desmond, 59. He's the north London cloakroom attendant who started trade magazines galore, then moved into porn before becoming a billionaire, with OK!, the Express newspapers and, recently, terrestrial TV channel Five.

He's known for his aggressive, in-your-face manner. He swears a lot, shouts often and screams frequently. His behaviour has aroused numerous legal disputes - the latest, involving the author Tom Bower, which he lost, heard how Desmond threatened a fund manager, saying: 'I'm the worst fucking enemy you'll ever have...'


Read about what Desmond offered Rupert Murdoch, his bid for Channel Five, and Richard Branson advising him to keep Asian Babes, here.

 

Richard Desmond with drums

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