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Friday, July 23, 2010

Five sold to Richard Desmond for GBP 103.5million

Five sold to "Northern and Shell" owned by Richard Desmond for GBP 103.5million
Desmond owns the Express Newspaper group.


RTL Group announced at shortly after 5pm that it had signed an agreement for the sale of Five Group to Desmond's Northern & Shell.

Gerhard Zeiler, the chief executive of RTL, said: "With a significant recovery of the UK TV advertising market and Five performing well in the first half of 2010, we saw a window of opportunity to realise a transaction based on a fair evaluation of Five. The disposal is in line with RTL Group's strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets.

"I would like to thank the whole team at Five and CEO and chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past 20 months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company."

With immediate effect, Five joins Desmond's roster of media assets, including Express Newspapers, the Daily Star, OK! magazine, and Portland TV - home of adult TV channels Television X and Red Hot.

Desmond visited Ofcom last week to assure them that Five's public service obligations to provide news and current affairs programming in primetime would be upheld. Speculation is mounting that Desmond will bolster celebrity-led content - possibly even including a continuation of Big Brother - on the television channel's schedule, using his other media assets to cross-promote Five.

Desmond is expected to face a grilling by MPs on the House of Commons culture committee once the deal has been done. But the deal is unlikely to be blocked by regulators because there are no competition issues. Desmond's combined share of the UK media market will still be relatively small if the purchase goes ahead.

Under the terms of Five's licence, which runs until 2014, it must screen a set amount of news and current affairs each year. Desmond visited Ofcom, the media regulator, last week to reassure them that he will continue to meet those requirements. MP are nevertheless also likely to seek assurances that Desmond does not intend to fill Five's schedule with "tabloid TV" shows.

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