MacKenzie teams up with Murdoch again for radio venture

KELVIN MACKENZIE, the infamous former Sun editor, has teamed up with his old proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, in his bid for the commercial radio station, Talk Radio.

News International, publisher of the Sun, the Times, the News of the World and the Sunday Times, confirmed yesterday that it is to be a 20 per cent stakeholder in the consortium being put together by Mr MacKenzie. The deal re-unites Mr MacKenzie with the Australian-born media mogul after four years at rival Mirror Group Newspapers. It is thought Mr Murdoch agreed to support Mr MacKenzie's bid for the radio station in order to lure him away from the Mirror. For the past six months Mr MacKenzie has overseen a revamp of the Mirror and is widely agreed to have improved the newspaper. Despite Mr Murdoch's Sun outselling the Mirror the Murdoch newspaper is losing sales faster and last week changed editors to try to imitate what Mr MacKenzie has achieved at the Mirror.

It is thought Mr Murdoch offered Mr MacKenzie the post of editor in chief of the Sun and the News of the World but the former editor wanted to run his own business.

Under present cross-media ownership regulations, News International could own 20 per cent of Talk Radio without triggering an investigation by the Radio Authority.

The MacKenzie bid for Talk Radio, home to broadcasters like Lorraine Kelly and Kirsty Young, was boosted by the revelation yesterday that his other consortium partner is an investment house investment vehicle, MVI, which already owns 24 per cent of the station.

Mr MacKenzie left the Sun in 1994 to become managing director of Mr Murdoch's satellite broadcaster BSkyB. However he left to join Mirror Group's Lve TV five months later after losing a power battle with BSkyB's chief executive, Sam Chisholm. However, while at Mirror Group Mr MacKenzie maintained good relations with Mr Murdoch.

Mr MacKenzie's conduct in creating a consortium, which includes a rival newspaper group, while deputy chief executive of Mirror Group raised eyebrows in the City yesterday.

A rival bidder for control of the station emerged yesterday in the form of the station's management, led by Talk's managing director Paul Robinson who said that Mr MacKenzie lacked the experience to run a national radio station. However, he did concede that he would be willing to discuss a deal with the MacKenzie consortium.

Mr MacKenzie said: "I have had a terrific time at the Mirror Group and owe David Montgomery (chief executive) a tremendous debt of gratitude but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity which I could not let go by."

Mr Montgomery said he would be sad to see him go. He said:"Kelvin has done a fabulous job for the company, in particular establishing the brand of Lve TV and helping to inspire the national newspaper team.

"Kelvin pursued the board's policy of widening the breadth of the Daily Mirror, which will continue under the combined stewardship of Piers Morgan, the editor, and Roger Eastoe, the managing director of our national titles.