Northern & Shell

Last updated
Northern & Shell plc
Type Limited company
FoundedDecember 1974;46 years ago (1974-12)
Founder Richard Desmond
Headquarters Lower Thames Street
London, EC3
United Kingdom
Services Publishing and television
Owner Richard Desmond

Northern & Shell (holding company name Northern and Shell Network Ltd) is a British publishing group, founded in December 1974 and owned since then by Richard Desmond. It published the Daily Express , Sunday Express , Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday , and the magazines OK! , New! and Star until these were sold to Trinity Mirror in February 2018. Northern & Shell also owned three entertainment television channels: Channel 5, 5* and 5USA until 2015. It owned Portland TV, [1] which operates adult TV channels including Television X and Red Hot TV; the company sold Portland in April 2016. [2]


Northern & Shell has operated The Health Lottery in the UK since it launched in 2011.


Desmond founded Northern & Shell in 1974 and launched a magazine called International Musician and Recording World . In 1983, Northern & Shell obtained the licence to publish Penthouse in the United Kingdom which led to its publishing a range of adult titles, [3] Asian Babes among them. [4] [5] These titles were later sold in 2004. It was the first company to move to the revamped Docklands and the Princess Royal opened the offices. When the company moved to the Northern & Shell Tower, the Duke of Edinburgh opened the offices.

Northern & Shell also publishes a wide range of magazines including the celebrity weekly, OK! , started as a monthly in 1993.

In November 2000, Northern & Shell acquired Express Newspapers from United News & Media for £125 Million. [6] enlarging the group to include the Daily and Sunday Express titles, the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday (which Desmond started), and the Irish Star (owned jointly with the Irish Independent group). The Daily and Sunday Express each sell around 700,000 copies per issue. [7] Northern & Shell had borrowed £97 million (approximately US$190 million) for the Express group purchase. Northern & Shell's "portfolio" of soft-porn magazines was offered for sale in 2001 in order to provide cash to invest in the then newly acquired Express Newspapers group. Some viewed the sale as an attempt to distance the company from the pornography business, but most analysts believed it to be only a financial move as The Fantasy Channel, Northern and Shell's adult cable channel, wasn't included in the sale. [8]

In 2004, Northern & Shell sought acquisition of additional publications — The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph , along with its sister publication The Sunday Telegraph. It was unsuccessful in its bid for The Telegraph, losing out to David and Frederick Barclay, who had long sought to own the paper. [9]

On 23 July 2010, Northern & Shell bought Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited, which operates Channel 5, 5* and 5USA for €125 million (£103.5 million) from the RTL Group. [10] On 1 May 2014, the channels were sold to Viacom for £450 million (US$759 million). [11]

In 2013, Northern & Shell announced that its TV listing magazine TV Pick would no longer be published. [12]

In 2014, Northern & Shell invested in a series of startups under the brand Northern & Shell Ventures. [13] This included investments in OpenRent, Tepilo and Lulu. [14] [15]

In February 2018, Trinity Mirror purchased Northern & Shell, titles―including the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday; and three celebrity magazines, OK!, New!, and Star―for £126.7 million. [16]


The building at 10 Lower Thames Street was built in 1985 [17] and has a distinctive blue glass facade. It was first built for Samuel Montagu & Co. [18] It is now partly occupied by N&S and partly rented out as serviced offices.

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Portland TV is a British adult television company owned by Neon X. It broadcasts subscription and pay-per-view services to UK audiences on the Sky UK, Virgin TV and Freeview platforms. The company was established in London Docklands in 1995 as the adult broadcasting division of the British publishing group Northern & Shell. At one point Portland owned its own broadcasting facilities, but they were later transferred to Channel 5 which Northern & Shell also owned. In 2016 Portland TV was sold by Northern & Shell in a management buy-out, becoming wholly owned by Neon X, in a deal that marked Northern & Shell's complete departure from involvement in the UK television industry. Portland was reportedly sold for less than £1 million after contributing less than two per cent of group revenues per year over the previous three years, or about £9 million per annum. Portland's managing director, Chris Ratcliff, led the buyout. At the time Portland was broadcasting five adult channels and two on-demand online services.

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  1. "Portland TV". Portland TV. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  2. "Richard desmond sells adult tv channels for less than £1m". Campaign. Campaign Live. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  3. "About Northern & Shell". Northern & Shell. N&S Network. Archived from the original on 20 January 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
  4. Jane Arthurs, Jean Grimshaw, "Women's bodies: discipline and transgression", Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999, ISBN   0-304-33963-6, pp.191-192
  5. Clarissa Smith, "One for the girls!: the pleasures and practices of reading women's porn", European Communication Research and Education Association Series, Intellect Books, 2007, ISBN   1-84150-164-6, p.57
  6. Jorn Madslien (12 February 2006). "Profile: Richard Desmond". BBC.
  7. "ABC Circulation Figures". Audit Bureau of Circulations. Retrieved 4 February 2009. (December 2008)
  8. "Desmond to sell 'adult' titles". BBC News Online: Business. BBC. 11 January 2001. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
  9. Ben Richardson (23 June 2004). "Does the Telegraph bid add up?". BBC News Online Analysis. BBC. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
  10. "RTL Group sells UK broadcaster Five" (Press release). RTL Group. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  11. "Viacom to buy Channel 5 for £450m". BBC News. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  12. "Desmond's TV Pick closes after 22 issues". The Guardian. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  13. "Northern & Shell Ventures".
  14. Steve, O'Hear. "Online Renting Service OpenRent Scores Media-For-Equity Deal From Northern & Shell Ventures". TechCrunch.
  15. "Richard Desmond: Google are gangsters, but wear fantastic sweaters". The Guardian.
  16. "Mirror buys Express titles from Richard Desmond". BBC News. 9 February 2018.
  17. "Northern & Shell Building". Buildington.
  18. Planning Application 16/01252/FUL