Guardian courted over sale of GMTV stake

Guardian Media Group (GMG), owner of the Guardian and Observer newspapers, is believed to have been approached about selling its stake in GMTV, the breakfast television service.

GMG has been sounded out by other GMTV shareholders about whether it would be prepared to sell its 15 per cent stake in the business, according to City sources.

The appointment of a successor for Jim Markwick, GMG's chief executive, which sources said will be announced next week, could kick-start a shake- up of the group. Mr Markwick's replacement, who is understood to have a background in television and books, may dust down proposals to split the company up.

GMG has in the past considered floating off some of its non-core assets, such as its interests in GMTV and a number of independent production companies, to raise funds for the Guardian and Observer. The plans were thought to have been shelved at the end of last year, but City sources continue to question the logic of the group's portfolio. The Scott Trust, GMG's parent company, has been conducting a review of the group for many months, and is understood to want to focus resources on the two national newspapers, Auto Trader and the Manchester Evening News.

GMG is likely to drop its involvement with GMTV in the long term, insiders say. However, it may postpone a sale of its shareholding until the Independent Television Commission decides how much ITV broadcasters should pay to renew their licences. GMTV, which paid pounds 50m to the Treasury last year, is likely to gain financially when it renews its licence, but its exact value would be determined by the size of its licence fee.

GMTV's other shareholders are Disney, which has a 25 per cent stake, and Carlton Communications, Scottish Media Group and Granada Group, which each hold 20 per cent. Analysts say Carlton and Granada are keen to increase their holding of GMTV.

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