Editor quits in new blow for ailing Express

Newspaper turmoil: Resignation adds to problems of once-dominant titles now faced with fierce competition and rising costs
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Media Editor

The Express group of newspapers, once Britain's most successful and influential mass market titles, was yesterday plunged into yet deeper turmoil, on news that Sir Nicholas Lloyd, editor of the Daily Express, will resign at the end of the month.

This marks the latest chapter in the decline of what were once the legendary Lord Beaverbrook's crown jewels, in recent years starved of investment and dogged by a price war and rising newsprint costs.

It is understood that Sir Nicholas's decision to leave was prompted by efforts by Lord Stevens, chairman of the newspaper's owners, United News and Media, to hire a new editor in the group which also include the Sunday Express and the Daily Star.

Last month, Lord Stevens was said to have flown to New York to offer the job to Martin Dunn, former editor of Today and now editor of the New York Daily News. Mr Dunn declined the offer, believed to be worth pounds 300,000 a year.

Sir Nicholas's departure fuelled speculation over a successor. Kelvin Mackenzie, head of Mirror Television and former editor of the Sun, was said last night to have "no intention" of taking a job at the Express, despite press comment.

Express insiders insisted last night that no successor has been chosen. That would suggest Sir Nicholas decided to leave of his own accord.

Circulation of the Daily Express has declined by 6 per cent in the last year alone, to about 1.2 million. Sir Nicholas had been under growing pressure to reverse the trend. Earlier this year, the Express group announced 220 redundancies and said it would seek additional costs savings. It was seen as a first step toward preparing the titles for eventual sale.

But yesterday's announcement was seen as an indication that Lord Stevens had no plans to sell. "He has clearly decided to make a go of it, and he is looking to bring in someone to improve the titles," said a senior industry executive.

Despite the denials, speculation continued last night. The secretive Barclay brothers are mentioned as would-be buyers of the titles, as is Tony O'Reilly, owner of the Irish Independent Newspapers, and part- owner of the Independent.

Alternatively, United might choose to work more closely with other national newspapers to develop jointly operated back office, printing and production facilities.