I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday….

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” as Wimpy would suggest to Popeye that he feed him, yet again. A short term solution to a long term problem. The decision of the Irish Daily Star to publish the pictures of Kate Middleton was a decision very much based on selling papers on a Saturday but ultimately may lead to unwinding the company on Monday.

wimpy2The speed of the criticism was incredible and the only individuals who publically cling on to an unapologetic and near vitriolic line were its Editor Michael O’Kane and M.D. Ger Colleran. Both completely entitled to their stout defence of the publication of the ‘holiday snaps’. Their grounds and defence is that Middelton is nothing to do with “us” etc (do I hear an 800 years there for anyone) and Michaels assertion that she can be put on a pedestal here in the Republic and is simply up there with other celebs like “Lady Gaga”. I’m quite sure that his reference to “Lady” Gaga was a royalist Freudian slip in this case, “pass me the butter, you ruined my life” kind of slip.

The Joint Venture is an intriguing one, both in terms of its legal structure and, much more importantly, operationally. It operates under an Irish Registered company Independent Star Limited (ISL) and if memory serves me correctly both parties are taking a very healthy €4m each in dividends a year. Not exactly loose change, ISL is a very profitable company.

I also believe that within the JV agreement is a buyout clause on multiples of profits (whether this is still true I’m unsure, but it certainly was the case) which means if Desmond want to get out, he’d have to pony up on a multiple of €8m.

If he goes through with unwinding his side of the JV what’s the fallout? And it has to be stressed that it’s his side of the JV he has authority over and can’t actually close the paper. The other media bitches today who jumped on the story saying that the paper was closing down is simply wishful thinking on their behalf     

Within the contract there would have to be something covering the departure of one side or the other. IN&M have operationally very little to do with the day to day running of the paper, Desmond on the other hand has a huge operational role. An operational role is not to be confused with editorial control.

Desmond supplies all of the UK premier league coverage, all of the UK racing – including race coverage and camera ready race cards,  practically all of the ‘world news’ and all the (decent) entertainment copy. It may seem banal to some but the Big Brother stuff, I’m in the Jungle type stories, Corrie exclusives and other TV fodder is very much a constituent part of the paper and any tabloid.

Desmonds departure  would mean that title won’t get its current UK premier league coverage. They could get agency copy, but then so can everyone else. Race cards are a very expensive bit of paper, but another necessary cog in a tabloid wheel. This expense is borne very much by their UK partners at the moment and they also supply the racing pages ready to shoot (a big time saving in terms of production).  

The title itself, the “Irish Daily Star” where does that lie? It has taken over two decades to build that brand (and possibly one decision to unravel it). To print a paper under a different title would certainly not have the same impact. The News of the World/ Sun on Sunday is living testimony to that experiment. It could be a real bun fight over the rights to the naming rights to the paper.

The history of Desmond shows that does not mince his words and his assertion that we wants to unwind the partnership has to be taken very seriously. The pockets there are deep and he probably wouldn’t miss the €4m all that much. Weighing up the few million in cash or protecting his reputation and that of his vast media empire in the UK may be a very easy decision.

Monday 17th: A quick search of the Irish patents office shows that Desmond has the upper hand here as Express newspapers own the trademarks for the “Irish Daily Star” and “The Irish Star” and “The Star” – so where do you turn now?

Everything is more or less replaceable, but perhaps no to the same uniqueness as they have now. But the title and the brand are where the two decades of work have been sunk into.