MAI to avert showdown in dispute over Meridian

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THE FINANCIAL services and media group MAI, run by Lord Hollick, is making plans to avert a showdown with its minority partners in Meridian, the commercial television licence-holder for southern England.

Carlton Communications and SelecTV, which hold 20 and 15 per cent respectively of Meridian, are angry at Lord Hollick's plans for Anglia Television, bought by MAI in an agreed takeover. They claim that, although he plans to integrate Anglia with Meridian, all the benefits will flow to MAI as Anglia will be a wholly-owned subsidiary.

But it is understood that a formula will be worked out allowing all parties to gain from the cost savings arising from the Anglia deal.

MAI said at the time of the takeover that there would be synergies, although Anglia is to be operated as a separate franchise.

But an industry source said Carlton and SelecTV were annoyed MAI used Meridian employees and resources to plan the Anglia bid. MAI owns 61 per cent of Meridian. Carlton's stake came through its takeover of Central Television.

MAI paid pounds 292m for Anglia. A fortnight ago it formed a consortium with Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times, and Time Warner, the US entertainment group, to bid for the licence to run Channel 5 if it is readvertised.