History

Throughout the past four decades the Northern & Shell group has thrived in a succession of highly competitive markets by maximising our own opportunities at the same time as working with our partners to maximise theirs.

 

In 1974 the group started out as the publisher of a single music title with a few hundred thousand sales a year. Vision, determination and attention to detail helped the Group extend beyond a music magazine heritage into the leisure and specialist magazine markets. By the late seventies the Group had developed a worldwide presence.

In 1982 Northern & Shell became the first company to establish its own building in London’s burgeoning Docklands, which opened the way to further expansion in magazine production. In 1983 the company took on the UK licence for Penthouse, which led to a range of additional adult titles that were sold in 2004.

The launch of OK! magazine in 1993 combined the Group’s experience in magazine publication and distribution with the Group’s ability to invest in key content – the key requirements when it comes to creating a market-leader. Iconic covers, including the David and Victoria Beckham wedding issue and Michael Jackson’s baby photographs, cemented the magazine’s reputation as the best-selling, must-read glossy in the weekly celebrity sector.

As far back as 1993, Northern & Shell had been interested in Express Newspapers as a possible acquisition target. But it was not until 2000 that the opportunity presented its self: from the moment that United News & Media announced it was open to offers, Northern & Shell’s ability to act quickly, quietly and decisively came into its own. In a matter of weeks finance from Commerzbank was in place, talks had been concluded and Northern & Shell was privileged to be the owner of a unique part of Britain’s media heritage.

In addition to acquiring the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Daily Star, the Group launched the Daily Star Sunday in 2002 and grew its share of the weekly magazine market with the launch of new! and Star magazines in 2003.

In July 2010, Northern & Shell achieved another long term ambition when it bought free-to-air broadcaster, Channel 5, from European broadcast group RTL, successfully beating off competition from three rival bidders – Channel 4, Time Warner and Endemol. Northern & Shell immediately confirmed that it would invest significantly in Channel 5’s long term future by increasing programming investment across the channel. The Group also reaffirmed its commitment to free-to-air digital and On Demand Television by re-joining YouView, the internet-connected television platform also backed by the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, TalkTalk, BT and Arquiva.

New Channel 5 commissions such as Big Brother, Shoplifters and Proud, Benidorm ER and Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways invigorated the schedule and sat alongside great acquisitions including The Mentalist, NCIS, Secrets and Lies, The Bible and Wentworth as well as long running favourites such as Neighbours and Home & Away. Channel 5 attracted well over 42 million viewers a month, alongside sister channels 5USA and 5* and a suite of programmes available on Demand5 across more than a dozen platforms.

The acquisition and launch of The Health Lottery in 2011 enabled the Group to find new ways to raise money to help thousands of charities up and down the country through targeted support for communities and local charity groups. The Society Lotteries which operate under The Health Lottery brand have funded thousands of local health projects in England, Scotland and Wales. Each grant from the People’s Health Trust, an independent charity which aims to tackles inequalities, is selected not only to enhance health outcomes in areas of poverty and social exclusion but also to support community cohesion.

Charities including Mencap, Carers Trust, Sustrans, the Alzheimers Society, Scope, The Youth Sports Trust, The Schools Food Trust and The Conservation Volunteers are just a few to have benefitted. By the end of 2018, The Health Lottery had raised over £100 million.

Following the sale of Channel 5 in September 2014 to global broadcaster Viacom, and the sale of its print & publishing businesses to Trinity Mirror plc (since renamed Reach plc) in February 2018, the Group’s principal interests are now property development, The Health Lottery and start-up ventures.