'Brookside' creator's TV empire is sold for £35m

Two years after his flagship programme Brookside was axed by Channel 4, Phil Redmond has completed a deal worth more than £35m to sell his business Mersey Television to a rival production company.

Redmond, creator of long-running shows such as Grange Hill and Hollyoaks, sold his mini television empire to All3Media, which at a stroke became Britain's biggest independent producer by turnover.

Mersey TV, based in the Liverpool suburb of Childwall, has over the past two decades transformed a former college into a theme-park of buildings converted into schools, bars, hospitals, police stations, a court building and houses. Redmond had kept a crashed helicopter on the site as a memento of a particularly dramatic episode of the soap Brookside and had installed a man-sized statue of Mickey Mouse outside his office.

But he and his wife, Alexis, have been looking for some time to sell the company, which employs 500 staff plus about 3,000 actors in a typical year . Redmond said: "Alexis and I were determined we would get the right people at the right time for the right price. I think we've got all three." He said he was particularly pleased that although Mersey TV's new owners are based in London they have strong connections with the television industry in north-west England.

All3Media will have to decide what to do with the clutch of houses that once made up Brookside Close and remain an asset of the company. But Redmond said that the business would "keep motoring on" under the new owners. A spin-off from Hollyoaks aimed at a slightly older audience was recently commissioned by Channel 4 to run on the digital channel E4.

Redmond came to prominence as the writer of the school-based BBC drama Grange Hill, which was first screened in 1978 and has been popular ever since.

Its creator has decided to remain as an executive producer of the show, which has reverted to its original core target audience of eight- to 14-year-olds.

He said: "Alexis and I ... firmly believe the company is now in safe hands to continue to grow and prosper. We will still be attached to the new venture through both Grange Hill and as 'the indie of choice' for anything we plan to do in the future. Like Brookside, Hollyoaks and Grange Hill, no episode brings anything to a close, just opens up the next possibility."

All3Media, which grew out of the acquisition of the television arm of the media giant Chrysalis, already includes the makers of Richard & Judy, Cactus TV, and the company behind Midsomer Murders, Bentley Productions.

All3Media's chief executive, Steve Morrison - a former boss of Granada - said Redmond had been "very much ahead of his time" in setting up Mersey TV, founding an independent before it was fashionable to do so. Redmond and his wife, who were majority shareholders in Mersey TV, are believed to be due about £20m.

The hits

BROOKSIDE

Formed part of Channel 4's opening-day schedule in 1982. Drug-taking, domestic abuse and a lesbian kiss meant it had audiences of 10 million at its peak. Ended in 2003.

HOLLYOAKS

Channel 4 soap for 16-to-24 age group, launched in 1995. Its good-looking cast and occasionally controversial plots have attracted tabloid coverage.

GRANGE HILL

Launched in 1978, this BBC children's series was attacked by family campaigners for its gritty depiction of school life.

TUCKER'S LUCK

A spin-off from Grange Hill in which Tucker Jenkins, played by Todd Carty, has his own show. Carty moved on to EastEnders.

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