RTL Group has announced that it has sold its UK terrestrial net Five to UK publishing magnate Richard Desmond for €125 million. RTL says the deal, in which Desmond’s Northern & Shell company takes control of the Five Group, is closed with immediate effect. ‘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,’ said RTL Group CEO Gerhard Zeiler in a statement posted on the RTL Group website. ‘The disposal is in line with RTL Group’s strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets. Given the market environment in the UK it has become clear that a standalone Five would ultimately prove sub-scale for our strategic goals.’ Adding that ‘selling our UK broadcaster Five was not an easy decision’ he also thanked ‘the whole team at Five and CEO & Chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past 20 months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company.’
Other media companies that were said to be interested in purchasing the struggling net were Time Warner, Channel 4 and Greece’s Antenna Group. Endemol was also said to be in the running earlier in the process. Desmond is the owner of the UK’s Daily Express and Daily Mail as well as several adult television channels.