The business on: Richard Desmond, Northern & Shell

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The Independent Online

Is Dirty Des buying channel Five?

Well, he is apparently leading the pack, but those in the know say that the reports making this assertion emanate from, erm, sources close to Mr Desmond. Given his reputation, there may be some at Five who would much prefer one of the two alternatives – Channel Four or the Americans.

What does he want with it?

Well, lots of people raised the same sort of question about the Daily Express before the one-time owner of Asian Babes got his hands on it. But while the critics sneer and circulation has continued to decline, Mr Desmond has made the "The World's Greatest Newspaper" into a hugely profitable enterprise. Presumably, he feels he can work similar magic on Five.

And can he?

Love him or loathe him, Mr Desmond's ruthless approach has often got results. He has no experience in broadcasting but could link with other groups to improve their bargaining power with media buyers while taking the axe to costs. This might be making more than a few people on larger-than-average TV salaries rather jittery. Expect some cross-promotion from the papers, too. As for the funds, Mr Desmond says he has £1bn in the bank to spend on deals. Even if that's an exaggeration, he's not short of a few quid.

So it's a done deal?

There is the regulator to get by (he's been seen in the vicinity of Ofcom), but Mr Desmond's, well, challenging personality traits, may be more of a worry. Having expressed an interest in buying the company, he once goose-stepped in front of horrified Daily Telegraph executives who were also talking to German media group Axel-Springer at the time.

Oh yes, but he does a lot for charity, right?

Mr Desmond does seem to enjoy the role of philanthropist and even plays drums in a supergroup with The Who's Roger Daltrey which has raised millions for children's charities. Let's face it, if he does get Five it promises to be entertaining, but less so for those who work there.