Former Express Web Sites to Close Permanently

[London, ENGLAND] The four Web sites that were axed by
pornographer Richard Desmond, the new owner of the Daily
and Sunday Express newspapers in the U.K., are to go into
liquidation, it was reported Tuesday.

Fifty jobs will be lost as a result of the decision to
abandon express.co.uk, allaboutparents.com, sportlive.co.uk
and www.companyleader.com — none of which has been fully
operational since December.

The four Web sites had been sold by Desmond to SP Investments,
a company belonging to his financial adviser Seymour Pierce.
For a few weeks, SP Investments went through the motions of
looking for a buyer but finally appointed HLB Kidsons to
liquidate the sites’ assets.

Richard Desmond, publisher of top shelf porn magazines such
as “Nude Wives,” “Big Ones,” and “Asian Babes,” purchased
Express Newspapers in November from Lord Hollick’s United
News & Media for US $185 million. Axing the Web sites
was one of his first cost-cutting exercises.

However, Desmond may yet come to regret his hasty decision
to get rid of the sites — as most experts agree that in
today’s media-rich world there are useful synergies to be
obtained by linking print and Web publications, especially
for national newspapers. For a national U.S. newspaper to
axe its Web site would be almost unthinkable.

Despite his protestations to the opposite, Desmond may
have more faith in pornography than in straight news
reporting. For example, in 1995 he launched Television X:
The Fantasy Channel, a subscription-based erotic cable
channel that lost money heavily at first. Nonetheless,
it was not abandoned and has since become profitable.

For the past few weeks, a plaintive message has greeted
readers of express.co.uk.

“We regret to announce that express.co.uk, the website of
the Daily Express, has been suspended until further notice
for commercial reasons. We are sorry for the inconvenience.
Please keep checking the site as we hope to have further
news later. Thank you for your messages of support and
understanding.”

In the meantime, news has been provided from moreover.com,
just as it is on hundreds of other sites.

Desmond is known to be unsentimental about any aspect
of his business that causes him trouble — and the sites
are reputed to have been costing around US $12 million a
year to run. Back in the eighties, Desmond was quick to
sell his premium-rate telephone sex lines when BT threatened
action over their content.

Since then, Desmond has been steadily climbing towards
respectability, publishing lifestyle magazine OK! and
later acquiring Express Newspapers. The Web (at least, the
respectable Web) will just not be part of the equation in
the immediate future.

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