Virgin makes £26m in TV sell-off

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The Independent Online

Sir Richard Branson was £26m richer last night following the sale of four TV production companies from the Virgin stable.

The businesses, which were controlled by Virgin's Media Group, were sold to California-based Four Media Company.

Virgin Media chairman Kenneth Ibbett said that the disposals were part of a plan to keep Virgin focused on its core consumer brands.

Mr Ibbett added that the money will be "channelled back into the Virgin pool", but he expected a "fair chunk of the money" would be redirected back to his division.

Virgin Media spans book publishing in the UK, radio operations in France and digital studio investments. Its better-known brands include Virgin.net, John Brown Publishing and Rapido TV.

Mr Ibbett claimed Sir Richard had made "quite a substantial profit from the sale", but he refused to reveal how much. The TV companies' assets were valued at £8m.

The disposals are part of a wider restructuring at the group. Virgin is planning to overhaul the Our Price brand, which is thought to have lost Sir Richard between £80m and £100m. The new-format stores will be skewed towards selling hi-tech devices like mobile phones, DVD players and MP3 machines, which download music files from the internet.

To help pay for this, Sir Richard last year sold a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic to Singapore Airlines for £600m.

Talks between Four Media Company and Virgin over the sale of the TV business started 18 months ago. They were put on ice when Four Media Company was taken over by Liberty Media Corporation.

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