Celador to sell 'Millionaire' show for £100m

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The Independent Online

Celador, the television production company, has put its Who Wants to be a Millionaire? hit quiz show up for sale. Is it worth: A £25m; B £50m; C £75m; or D more than £100m?

The answer is D, according to industry sources. And that would lead to a payout of more than £15m for Jasper Carrott, the comedian who has a stake in the privately owned company.

Some suggested it was the first time that a whole programme format had been put up for sale. The Millionaire show, which has attracted audiences of 19 million in the UK, where it is presented by Chris Tarrant, has been sold to 105 countries.

In countries ranging from Japan and India to Iceland, the same studio set, music, question format and graphics have viewers shouting answers at their television screens.

Paul Smith, who founded Celador, said it was time to sell up. "I am 59. I have worked hard at this since 1981," he said. "I now want to have a life without so much pressure and concentrate on other activities, as well as have more leisure time."

The company plans to sell the rest of its production and rights businesses separately to existing management. Celador also makes the Channel 4 programme You Are What You Eat.

Analysts said Millionaire could enjoy dramatic growth as a result of using the format for mobile phones and other interactive applications. LongAcre Partners, the specialist media financial adviser, is auctioning the rights to the programme.

Possible buyers include Endemol, the production house behind Big Brother, Fremantle, which is owned by Germany's RTL, and Rupert Murdoch's Fox network.

The programme, which was launched in 1998 and asks contestants to choose from four possible answers to questions, uses an original business to finance the top prize of £1m. It takes a share of telephone revenues from viewers who ring in to try to get on the show.

Mr Smith, who, along with his wife, owns 36 per cent of Celador, pointed out that the attraction of the Millionaire programme was not necessarily in seeing contestants scoop £1m, as only four have done so in the 450 shows that have been broadcast in the UK.

"It's to do with the drama, the strategy the players apply, the 'should they' 'shouldn't they'," he said. "It's seeing someone wrestling with these decisions."

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