£85m is just dandy for Sudoku publisher

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The Independent Online

The Thomson family has beaten off rival bidders including IPC, the publisher of lads' magazine Nuts, as well as two private equity firms.

Puzzler Media is majority- owned by the private equity arm of the Dutch investment bank ABN Amro, which is set to double its money when it sells the business, cashing in on the recent craze for suduko. ABN Amro bought the stake in 2002 in a deal worth nearly £37m.

Puzzler Media said earlier this year that sales of Sudoku magazine were expected to hit 280,000 issues a month to become its best-selling publication.

Separately, there were rumours last week that ITV was having second thoughts about its planned acquisition of Friends Reunited, the website which puts childhood friends and old flames in touch.

It was reported a fortnight ago that ITV was the favourite to land the website, for around £120m. The company's advisers were instructed to move towards completion of the deal.

However, the City was wrong-footed by the news, with shares initially falling. Analysts and bankers have questioned the strategy, suggesting that a regional newspaper publisher could better exploit Friends Reunited's database of names and addresses for advertising purposes than a broadcaster such as ITV.

The company, which needs to find other ways of making money as its share of ad revenue from TV falls, wants to use the website to sell customised content over the internet to its members. The website would also drive traffic to its portal, itv.com.

ITV declined to comment on whether it is buying the website or not. Some bankers attributed the rumours of its waning interest to mischief making by its competitors.

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