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Former Sunday Express editor Sue Douglas plans to launch new national Sunday redtop

By Hamish Mackay

April 16, 2012 | 4 min read

Former Sunday Express editor, Sue Douglas, along with a former ITV executive, Rupert Howell, is undertood to be contemplating launching a new Sunday redtop to take on News International’s Sun on Sunday.

According to Media Guardian, Douglas is talking to potential investors - including the millionaire owner of Sale Sharks rugby club, Scot Brian Kennedy, who has been involved in the current bidding war for Rangers FC.

Media Guardian reports: “If the venture secures the necessary funding it is possible that the paper will launch in the second half of the year.

“Sources familiar with the project said Douglas and Howell are working on developing a ‘media brand’ that would include a digital and print product, in addition to a TV and radio service that would specialise in the type of salacious content that made Murdoch tens of millions a year before he shut the News of the World in July 2011.”

Douglas confirmed to MediaGuardian that she is at "heads of terms stage" with investors but said she was not yet ready to go public on their identities.

The news website quotes her as saying: "It would be a reincarnation of the News of the World. It would be mischievous, punctuating pomposity, exposing hypocrisy with a smile. We have gathered quite a lot of momentum and funding."

It is understood Douglas's firm, Phoenix Newspapers Limited, has approached "three or four high net worth individuals" – including Kennedy, whose wealth is estimated at about £300m.

Kennedy had not responded to a request for comment from Media Guardian at the time of publication.

Douglas first publicly mooted the idea of a new Sunday tabloid last July when the News of the World closed.

She said it has "grown like topsy" since then. She approached Murdoch about taking over the News of the World title with "ethnically cleansed" content but was rebuffed last summer.

She is quoted as saying:"Stories and knowledge do not reside exclusively with the FT, the Indy or The Guardian … [creating the title] matters to me for all sorts of noble reasons.”

She has brought on board Howell as chief executive of the publishing venture.

Howell has a stake in the company, Phoenix Ventures, but characterises his involvement as more of an advisory capacity, and would look to take a chairman role.

Douglas is also working with Mark Rowse, former manager in corporate finance at NM Rothschild, who describes himself on Linked In as a "director and investor in digital media business".

Rowse is currently chairman of 7Day Media, the outsourcing partner providing online and offline newspaper production services to the Daily Telegraph and others.

Louis Jebb, managing director of 7Day Media and former production director at Independent Newspapers who was involved in launching 20p title i, is also involved in the project.

Media Guardian points out: “Phoenix has been biding its time, waiting to see the impact of the Sun's Sunday launch on 26 February, before evaluating if the business plan is viable.”

The Sunday edition of the Sun launched with sales of 3.22 million but the official ABC figure for March gives it a circulation of 2,426,894.

The Sunday tabloid project is reported to be one of a number of ventures that Howell, a co-founder of ad agency HHCL and former senior executive at McCann Erickson,

has been working on since leaving ITV in July 2010.

Douglas ventured into Scotland some years ago when she helped relaunch The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News with former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil.

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