Optimistic seeks AIM listing with support from TV comedians

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The Independent Online

Jasper Smith, a media entrepreneur, and David Brook, the former strategy director at Channel 4, will emerge with stakes together worth more than £6m from a planned flotation of their television programming business on AIM.

The two directors, who will be chairman and chief executive respectively, will also be eligible for most of a £4.5m options package granted to management under the terms on which their Optimistic Entertainment is reversing into a private shell company set up by the shell specialist Michael Edelson. Optimistic will be valued at £27m.

Shareholders in the shell, called Willow Partners, include the television presenters Angus Deayton and David Baddiel. It will acquire Optimistic, before floating later this month.

Mr Deayton and Mr Baddiel will each have a 2 per cent stake in the listed company, assuming shareholders approve the deal. A placing by the stockbroker John East & Partners at 5p a share has already raised £1.31m for the company, after expenses.

Optimistic, which was established a year ago, co-producedFlipside TV, the Channel 4 series. As well as a production arm, the company has Nation217, a digital channel available to Sky subscribers and broadband internet users, which specialises in interactive shows.

Mr Brook, who was director of strategy and development at Channel 4 from 1997 to 2003, said Optimistic was "unique" among independent programme makers in having its own channel on which to "hone" new shows and demonstrate their appeal, before trying to sell the format to mainstream stations. He said: "We offer a quick route on to the screen. Nation217 acts as an incubator for new ideas."

He added that Optimistic's emphasis on "secondary" revenue streams - money from interactive services such as telephone links, text messaging and gambling - also separated it from rivals.

At Channel 4, Mr Brook oversaw the creation of its E4 and FilmFour digital stations, as well as the development of the Big Brother programme.

Optimistic's management are entitled to a maximum of 90 million shares under an options programme, for a nominal sum, if the company records combined underlying earnings of £1.45m for this year and next.

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