Who wants to be a multi-millionaire? Jasper Carrott does

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The Independent Online

Jasper Carrott is set to make around £15m from the sale of the TV quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to a Dutch media company.

The comedian has a stake of about 15 per cent in the owner of the programme, Celador, which yesterday agreed to enter exclusive sale talks with 2waytraffic, a production company set up by former executives of Endemol, the creator of Big Brother.

The deal is understood to value Celador in excess of £100m and will be funded mainly in cash. Advised by Investec, the AIM-listed 2waytraffic beat off rival bids from the founder of Endemol, Jon de Mol, the French TV network TF1 and the presenter of Millionaire, Chris Tarrant, who was being backed by the US private equity group Carlyle.

The biggest shareholder in Celador is the quoted Investinmedia, which owns a 49 per cent stake. The second biggest investor is Paul Smith, the TV producer who propelled Carrott to stardom. He owns about 18 per cent of the company.

Millionaire is the most popular TV quiz show ever and has been sold to about 60 countries. Celador's intellectual rights enable it to control everything from the lighting and set design to the music which accompanies the show. The two elements which have made the show so popular are the three "lifelines" which contestants are allowed and the guarantee of taking home at least £1,000 or £32,000 which encourages participants to carry on answering questions.

Under 2waytraffic's ownership, the Millionaire brand is expected to become much more interactive. The Dutch company, which floated in London earlier this year with a £115m price-tag, specialises in what is known as "participation television". This involves viewers of quiz shows phoning in or e-mailing to take part in the programme, rather than just watching it.

The two driving forces behind 2waytraffic, the chief executive Kees Abrahams and chief operating officer Unico Glorie, are former Endemol executives. Mr Glorie, a former disc jockey, produced the original Big Brother after being hired by Mr de Mol.

Based in Hilversum in the Netherlands, the company operates in 33 countries and produces more than 6,000 hours of live television a year. The Celador deal is expected to be signed some time next month once due diligence has been completed.

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