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Express boss Richard Desmond calls Mirror CEO a 'trained illusionist' as he rebuffs takeover claims

Daily Express owner Richard Desmond has put a pin in rumours that he is set to sell the title to rival group Trinity Mirror.

The chairman of the red top's mother group, Northern & Shell, launched an attack on Mirror chief executive Simon Fox, in response to comments made by the latter in the Times regarding a potential deal between the pair.

In an article published on the Express wesbite this morning, Desmond said he would like the Mirror boss to "fox off" and insisted there had been no such talks.

The statement asserted that Desmond was "irritated" by what he sees as the Mirror "using his name and prolonging the idea of a deal perhaps as a cheap means of shoring up their share price."

"Mr Desmond acknowledges the Mirror chief executive's talents as a trained illusionist," the paper concluded, "but reiterates that he does not wish Northern and Shell’s name be used in any further ‘smoke and mirror tactics’".

Desmond added: "It is true that an approach was made through Barclays Capital about the possibility of the Mirror buying the Express group, but I personally never had a conversation and never heard of any proposal that seemed to relate to the real world".

He also revealed that his firm had itself tried to purchase the Mirror Group but that "Mr Fox blocked the meeting."

Accusing the mirror of discounting ads to "safeguard short-term appearences", he hinted that the Express may up the ante when it comes to competitive pricing in 2016.

"Through our aggressive pricing policy the Daily Star sales are up some 20 per cent, a rise unprecedented in current times, and the Daily Express may well adopt the same strategy in the New Year," he said.

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