Nazi jibes, goose-steps and foul abuse: Desmond addresses 'Telegraph' chiefs

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The Independent Online

The new-found support of the Daily Express no longer looks like such a great coup for the Tory leader, Michael Howard, after the newspaper's owner, Richard Desmond, launched an expletive-strewn verbal attack on executives from a rival newspaper group.

Mr Desmond embarked on the foul-mouthed tirade at a meeting between Express executives and directors from the Telegraph Group to discuss their jointly-owned newspaper printing plant at Westferry in London's Docklands.

The Express Newspapers chief hit out at the Telegraph chief executive, Jeremy Deedes, calling him a "miserable piece of shit" in an onslaught that lasted several minutes.

Mr Desmond, who recently dropped out of the race to buy the Telegraph titles, also turned his fire on a German newspaper group still in the bidding, branding them "Nazis".

After several minutes of the onslaught, Mr Deedes and his colleagues decided to leave the meeting, prompting Mr Desmond to start goose-stepping, much like Basil Fawlty, and tell Express executives to sing the Nazi anthem "Deutschland über Alles" and perform Sieg Heil salutes.

"It was a very, very unpleasant occasion," said Mr Deedes, who came out of retirement last month to resume his role as Telegraph chief executive after leaving the company in 2003.

"There's no point in trying to conduct a meaningful meeting with somebody who's in that frame of mind. The sheer venom of the racism that came out of his mouth was astonishing."

The Express boss launched into the extraordinary outburst before the monthly finance meeting even began, greeting Mr Deedes and his colleagues by saying "Guten Morgen".

Mr Deedes responded with a joke about Mr Desmond's decision to switch his paper's support to the Conservative Party. "I pulled his leg a bit about having seen the light with the Tories," Mr Deedes said. "Then he said to me: 'How do you feel about being owned by fucking Nazis?' I said: 'That's a totally inappropriate thing to say.' I was Assuming he was referring to Axel Springer."

Axel Springer, the German publishing group poised to buy the Telegraph titles, has written support for the state of Israel and condemnation of Hitler's treatment of the Jews into the firm's articles of principle.

Mr Deedes then suggested to Mr Desmond that they should sit down and get on with the planned meeting.

Mr Deedes said: "Mr Desmond said: 'Don't you tell me to sit down, you fucking miserable piece of shit'. At one point, he asked if I wanted to go outside to sort it out. I regard it as extreme behaviour in front of adults. Eventually, it was clear there was no way of conducting a meaningful meeting."

"He [Desmond] was holding two fingers up as a Hitler moustache and making Nazi salutes," the Telegraph chief added.

Mr Desmond also called the Telegraph executives "fucking cunts" and "fucking wankers".

The Telegraph's managing director Hugo Drayton, finance director, Niamh O'Donnell-Keenan, and printing director, Bill Ellerd-Styles, all left the meeting with Mr Deedes.

At that stage Mr Desmond told his contingent, including the Express managing director, Martin Ellice, and publishing manager, Chris Haslum, a former circulation director at the Telegraph, to sing "Deutschland über Alles."

"The comments are an interesting interpretation of what was a very productive one-and-a-half-hour meeting," was all that Express Newspapers had to say on the matter yesterday.

The decision by Mr Desmond to transfer his paper's loyalties to the Tories was heralded as a triumph for the party and Mr Howard.

Although the Daily Express has historically been a Conservative Party backer, Mr Desmond made a high-profile gesture of support to Tony Blair in the form of £100,000 worth of free advertising in the run-up to Labour's general election victory in 2001.