Sullivan sells Bristol stake: Soft porn publisher loses battle for regional newspaper group

DAVID SULLIVAN, the soft porn publisher, has abandoned hope of taking control of Bristol Evening Post. It was announced yesterday that he had sold most - possibly all - of his 10.2 per cent stake in the regional newspaper company.

The disposal follows his admission earlier this week that he planned to sell most of his racehorses, adding to speculation that he needs to raise some cash urgently. In March he bought control of Birmingham City football club for a reported pounds 700,000.

The Stock Exchange announcement said Mr Sullivan, proprietor of the Sunday Sport and a former sex shop owner, 'no longer has a notifiable interest in the BEP'. That means his holding is 3 per cent at most.

Mr Sullivan gradually built up his stake in BEP in 1990. His bid to lift the holding to 25 per cent was blocked by the late Nicholas Ridley, then trade secretary, after the Monopolies and Mergers Commission ruled it would not be in the public interest. His demands for a seat on the board have been repeatedly rebuffed.

It is thought that Mr Sullivan would have made a profit on the shares, which were trading at about pounds 2.60 when he accumulated his stake and closed yesterday at pounds 3.45.

It is understood that he sold the shares through the London stockbroker Shaw & Co. Hill Samuel and Mercury Asset Management are understood to have been among the buyers.

After buying an 84 per cent stake in Birmingham City, Mr Sullivan promised to invest up to pounds 6m in the struggling club. He has since said he plans to sell all but three or four of his 25 racehorses.

Last November Mr Sullivan said he again intended to take control of BEP. He had built a track record in conventional newspapers with his ownership of the News & Echo in the North of England, he said.

Mr Sullivan's office said he was not commenting on the disposal. Nor would BEP, which has always regarded Mr Sullivan's holding as unwelcome.

(Photograph omitted)

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