Chris Evans heads back to Virgin territory

The disc jockey Chris Evans moved against his old employers at Radio 1 and their new breakfast team by agreeing to front a rival show for Virgin.

The move marks the start of a ratings battle between the two popular stations, with Evans launching his new show on the same day as Zoe Ball and Kevin Greening make their own debut.

He will be rejoined by members of his old breakfast crew, including student Dan, Holly "Hotlips" and John. News reader Tina Richie will also rejoin the team after resigning from Radio 1 yesterday.

A spokesman for Evans said: "Radio is really his love. He's been doing it for 16 years, so now he's back where he loves to be. People will paint it as a war between him and Zoe, but it is not a war as far as he's concerned - Zoe is a good friend of his."

Virgin's current breakfast DJs Russel Williams and Jonathan Coleman were unceremoniously axed yesterday morning and told not to come back on Monday. A stand-in will fill their shoes until Evans launches his show on 13 October.

The shake-up has sent more shock waves reverberating around the radio world than the news two weeks ago that Ball and Greening would replace Mancunian presenters Mark Radcliffe and Mark Riley.

The new show will only run from Monday to Thursday, giving Evans time to prepare for his TFI Friday Show on Channel 4. It was the refusal by his old boss Matthew Bannister to give him Fridays off that prompted him to leave Radio One .

Evans, 30, who was paid pounds 1m a year for his old Radio One breakfast show and added more than one million listeners to the station's audience, is expected to receive a similar amount from his new employers.

The move marks a return to Virgin Radio for Evans - he presented the Big Red Mug Show for the station four years ago. He has also worked on Piccadilly and GLR before heading for television success with The Big Breakfast and Don't Forget Your Toothbrush on Channel Four.

The show's run may be limited, however, because of an expected decision by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on a planned merger between Virgin and Capital Radio.

So far, only a 10-week run has been planned.