Jobs at risk in shake-up at Express titles shake-up

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Sue Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express, was last night asked to cut short a holiday in Scotland and return to London to discuss the future of the Express titles, which are to undergo a radical reorganisation.

But the managing director, Stephen Grabiner, dismissed speculation that Ms Douglas was leaving her job, saying "we very much hope Sue will be part of what we are planning", and that the Express intended to add several new products, including a weekend magazine.

Question marks over Ms Douglas's future are the first sign of a restructuring inspired by the newspaper's owners, United News & Media, run by Lord Hollick, the Labour peer.

The aim of the changes is to cut the pounds 45m editorial budget by up to 15 per cent and to stanch the readership losses that have dogged the two titles in recent years. Ninety jobs may be in danger, although Mr Grabiner declined to comment.

Staff were expecting the introduction of a seven-day operation to provide services such as pictures, sub-editing and layout, leaving two editorial teams to direct the titles. Richard Addis, currently editor of the Daily Express, would become editor-in-chief of the two newspapers, while Mark Palmer, currently number three at the daily, would take on the Sunday newspaper.

Another option, which some staff insisted was still possible, would see the Daily Express turned into a five-day, rather than six-day newspaper, with a new weekend paper published on Saturdays and Sundays.

The problems at the Express group date from well before Lord Hollick's MAI, the ITV franchise-holding company, merged with Lord Stevens's United early this year. Several years of low investment and little promotional spending left the titles weak in the battle with the mid-market leaders, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

Lord Hollick has made it clear that he prefers television, exhibitions and money-broking, and has said he would only agree to a significant promotional budget for the new titles when he was convinced the product was right. At his direction, the company has already put up for sale 47 regional newspapers in the south of England.

Ms Douglas and Mr Addis were hired by Lord Stevens shortly before the United-MAI merger, and promised significant budgets.

Staff are steeling themselvesyesterday for further job cuts."Morale is shite," said one senior journalist.