Mirror discusses linking up with Regional

THE BOARD of Mirror Group will today discuss joining forces with Regional Independent Newspapers, amid bitter recriminations between Mirror and the regional publisher, Trinity, following the collapse of merger talks a week ago.

On Friday, Sir Victor Blank, Mirror chairman, is understood to have spoken to his counterpart at Regional, publisher of titles such as the Yorkshire Post. Sir Victor will report back to the Mirror board today.

The involvement of Sir Victor in talks with Regional, owned by the venture capital company Candover, surprised industry observers. Many in the City believed Sir Victor was committed to a merger with Trinity and that this had sparked clashes with David Montgomery, the Mirror chief executive, who is said to favour searching for an alternative merger partner.

This latest twist in the long-running merger saga at Mirror Group comes amid an escalating war of words between Mirror and Trinity. Trinity, the UK's largest regional newspaper publisher, blamed the breakdown of talks last week on Mr Montgomery's insistence that he be given a senior executive role in the new group.

Trinity said yesterday that it was unlikely to restart merger talks with Mirror as long as Mr Montgomery "was a part of the merger proposition".

A Trinity spokesman said: "A deal with Mirror Group seems to us very difficult, if not impossible, if it includes Mr Montgomery." Phillips & Drew Fund Management, Mirror's largest shareholder, is said strongly to favour a merger with Trinity, even if this means losing the services of the Mirror chief executive.

Mirror, however, maintains that Mr Montgomery, like other senior Mirror executives, "was perfectly willing to reorganise management roles".

A Mirror spokesman said disagreements over price lay behind the breakdown, and Mr Montgomery was purely concerned with getting Mirror shareholders a good deal. "The numbers Trinity brought to the table did not look that appealing," the spokesman said.