Evans plans City float of media firm

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The Independent Online
DISC JOCKEY Chris Evans is expected to become more than pounds 80m richer as a result of plans to float his production company on the stock market.

Mr Evans owns 55 per cent of Ginger Media Group, a company formed out of Ginger Productions two years ago when he bought Richard Branson's Virgin Radio station. City analysts estimate the group to be worth pounds 150m. The Group has begun talks with City banks, understood to include Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, about managing a floatation. A merchant bank is likely to be appointed soon to handle the sale. Mr Branson, still owns 20 per cent of the group.

The floatation would end rumours of a possible link between Mr Evans and Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun and owner of Talk Radio. Mr Evans' backer in his purchase of Virgin Radio was venture capital firm Apax Partners, which owns 20 per cent of Ginger. Apax also acted as an advisor to Mr MacKenzie in his purchase of Talk Radio and a link between the two has been rumoured in the radio industry.

However it is thought that the health of Ginger's financial performance has encouraged the company's management to go for Plc status rather than a trade sale of shares to Mr MacKenzie. Ginger is believed to have made an operating profit of pounds 15m in the 12 months to the end of July, up from pounds 10m last year. The company is reported to have a turnover of over pounds 50m and Apax Partners is understood to be keen to turn some of its share into cash.

While ratings for the radio station have slipped by half a million in recent months - after a previous wobble earlier in the year - the station's advertising sales team has successfully managed to persuade advertisers to pay a premium to be associated with the Chris Evans phenomenon.

The rest of Ginger Media makes radio and television programmes for a number of broadcasters, including Mr Evans' TFI Friday programme for Channel 4. Earlier in the year Ginger entered into talks with Express Newspapers about buying The Star.

A spokesman for Ginger Media declined to comment on the proposed floatation.