Grabiner scotches Murdoch move rumours

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN GRABINER, chief executive of ONdigital, last night tried to scotch City speculation that he is about to quit in favour of another top media post.

Mr Grabiner was rumoured to be leaving for a management post with eVentures, the joint venture Internet investment fund that was set up last week by Rupert Murdoch, the chair of ONdigital's rival BSkyB, and Softbank founder Masayoshi Son.

Mr Grabiner said last night he fully expected to be with ONdigital in the future. "Yes is the answer to that question," he said, commenting on whether he would remain with the company.

"ONdigital has 250,000 subscribers and is doing really well. The business is really beginning to build," he added. "I'd love to know who's making this up."

Sources said Mr Grabiner, 40, was to leave ONdigital after only a year following differences of opinion with Carlton chairman Michael Green, who is also chairman of the digital terrestrial broadcaster. Carlton and Granada jointly own the company.

Last year, Mr Grabiner left Lord Hollick's United News & Media after a brief stint as executive director and chief executive of UK consumer publishing. Although Mr Grabiner has refused to be drawn on his time at United, it was clear that Lord Hollick was incensed at losing the executive to ONdigital.

Previously, Mr Grabiner spent 10 years at The Telegraph, first as marketing director, then as deputy managing director and managing director.

ONdigital, which went on air in late 1998, has trailed BSkyB, which launched Sky Digital on 1 October last year. BSkyB is expected to report that it has passed the one million subscriber mark when it presents full year results next month.

News Corp's recently established Internet firm, epartners, and Softbank launched eVentures with $50m in startup capital. eVentures is to facilitate the introduction of US-based Internet companies to the UK, New Zealand, Australia and India.

Its first funding is a $22.5m investment in the UK affiliate of E-Loan, a California-based Internet mortgage company. eVentures plans to expand the E-Loan business to Australia, New Zealand and India.