A boorish bigmouth who likes champagne and Guinness benders. Would you trust him with pounds 80m?

When Chris Evans appealed for listeners to send him money so he could buy Virgin Radio no one took him seriously. Now he has the pounds 80m needed from venture capitalists, Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, asks if he is a "fit and proper" person to be a media mogul.
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The Independent Online
An opera singer dressed as the Sydney Opera House stood in Golden Square in Soho yesterday and serenaded the Virgin Radio offices. No one was quite sure why he was there, but no one was particularly surprised either. "Its been like this since Evans arrived," said a Virgin source. "Evans fans, stretch limos, celebrities everywhere, TV crews. A total buzz and total madness."

The madness became flagrant yesterday with the announcement that the station's star DJ had found a venture capital company to back his bid for Virgin Radio.

Two weeks ago, live on air, Evans asked listeners to help him buy Virgin so as to guarantee him a longer term job. Virgin, and most of the press assumed it was a stunt.

Apax Partners, one of the original shareholders in Virgin Radio, obviously thought differently. Yesterday it confirmed that it had been in talks with Ginger Productions for some time and was willing to back his bid to merge the radio station with his company. Apax are reported to be willing to put up the pounds 80m needed, in return for a share of Ginger, Evans' pounds 30m company.

When ordinary mortals try to borrow money, they tend to emphasise their sobriety. Presumably working on the old aphorism that when you owe a bank a dollar you're in trouble but when you owe a bank $100m the bank is in trouble, Evans instead detailed on air a drinking binge with his entourage.

He also told listeners of his stretch-limousine envy, with US band Aerosmith. Directly after Wednesday's show, and just at the time when Apax Partners were putting together his bid for Capital, the DJ and his team met the American pomp-rockers in traffic. Impressed with the size of his limo compared with theirs, Evans, like any media mogul would, leant out of the window of his car to taunt the band.

Then later in the day - and not, says a spokesman, because he was celebrating his Virgin bid, but "because he's just like that" - Evans and Ginger Productions managing director John Revell went out on a champagne and Guinness bender.

All of this was described in some detail live on air - along with a weird story about his bid for Virgin that took lemons as its metaphor for the radio station. For Evans describing his life on air is less a part of an act, as all of his act. He is now the true post-modern performer, and his celebrity life has become the show. Fortunately he has a pretty interesting life. The downside to this is that if his bid for Virgin were to succeed, the radio industry watchdog probably knows more about him than he would like.

The Radio Authority has to approve the ownership of commercial radio licences and has a clause in its regulations that reads: "The Authority shall not grant a licence to any person unless they are satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to hold it."

Given Mr Evan's taste for on-air sexual innuendo - he recently had a listener reveal her surgically enhanced breasts on air in an aural nudity experiment - and drinking binges, there will no doubt be some moralists who would object to him getting a radio licence. Although he certainly wouldn't be the first boozy character to own a radio station. Sources close to Apax would only say yesterday that they wouldn't be in a consortium with Ginger if they didn't think Evans was a serious operator.

Before it gets to moral outrage, Capital Radio's agreed pounds 87m bid for Virgin probably has to fall foul of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Virgin has said it will consider Evans and Apax's offer seriously, so it obviously no longer has an exclusivity deal with Capital preventing it from talking to others.

The rationale for the Capital/Virgin deal is that it would fund both stations' expansion into digital radio. But Branson is clearly tempted by Ginger Productions because it would give him what he's always wanted - access to TV production.

Importantly, while all this was taking place yesterday the TV half of Evan's media empire was close to completing a deal with Channel 4 for the broadcaster to keep taking his television programme TFI Friday for another four years. This deal is said to be worth pounds 20m.

Chris Evans may or may not be seen by some as a "fit and proper" person to own a radio station, but in terms of one key criterion - money - he's already there.

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