Battle of the bump as magazines offer Hurley £1.5m for baby photos

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It promises to be the most lucrative bump in history. The impending birth of Elizabeth Hurley's baby has provoked a bidding war between magazines on both sides of the Atlantic desperate to publish the first picturesof her offspring.

Hurley, 36, is seven months pregnant. Though primarily famous for wearing a dress held up with safety-pins and dating the actor Hugh Grant, she excites levels of interest usually reserved for A-list superstars.

The unseemly scuffle over the foetus has set new records for chequebook photojournalism. An unprecedented £1.5m deal has already been offered.

Both OK! and Hello! magazines are thought to be bidding against American publications. Hurley is considered such hot property that worldwide syndication would easily recoup such a fee.

The occasional actress and model was contacted by OK! the day news of her pregnancy broke in November last year (the putative father, multi-millionaire Steven Bing, is denying paternity). She is now considering her options.

During the past decade, magazines such as Hello! (based on its Spanish parent, Hola!) and OK! have put an increasingly exaggerated price tag on personal events in the lives of the famous. Births, engagements, weddings, honeymoons and even – for the desperate – "renewal of vows" can all be highly profitable.

David and Victoria Beckham established a watershed with the reported £1m fee from OK! for their wedding – a feat later matched, reputedly, by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.

The Douglas's child, Dylan, was kept covered in public to protect a magazine deal for the first pictures. The Beckhams also shielded their son, Brooklyn, from the paparazzi, restricting access to OK!.

Even Sharon Stone and Phil Bronstein were photographed in white dressing gowns, as though fresh from the delivery suite, after adopting their baby son, Roan. Other stars who have cashed in include ballerina Darcey Bussell and Bill Wyman's ex-wife Mandy Smith, while the Page 3 model Jordan claims she will give birth live on the Net.

Fees can range from the ludicrous to the mildly lucrative. The Duke of York's ex- girlfriend Koo Stark was apparently paid £20,000 by Hello! for photographs after the birth of her daughter Tatiana. Scraping the bottom of the celebrity barrel, Hello! is reported to have paid a six-figure sum for photographs of Melanie Cable Alexander, mother of Lord Snowdon's son Jasper.

Such fees may sound absurd, but the cost of raising a celebrity infant is considerable. Portland Hospital in London, top choice for pregnant celebrities, costs a basic £6,000 for the birth, plus extra for a suite. The resulting offspring tends to be carried in a Bill Amberg papoose (red leather with a pink fur trim is a favourite), costing £275, and may suck a Dior dummy (£16).

Nannies will set parents back anything between £20,000 and £50,000 a year, plus car. School fees run to about £18,000 a year.

A designer wardrobe should be free for A-list offspring – thanks to eager sponsors – but cost £10,000 and more for the aspiring. Fortunately, the financial equation comes full circle when the celebrity infant hits its teens and starts modelling. Elizabeth Jagger, Ivanka Trump and Leah – daughter of Ronnie – Wood are all now making a living on the catwalk.

Whatever the outcome of the magazine wars, Liz Hurley is about to lay a golden egg.