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TV & Radio

Media tycoon Desmond buys TV's Five

Newspaper and magazine proprietor Richard Desmond has bought TV channel Five, it was announced today.

The owner of the Daily Express and OK! magazine is paying £103.5 million to European entertainment network RTL for its 100% shareholding in Five, RTL said.

The station first launched in 1997.

RTL said it had signed an agreement for the sale of Five Group to the Northern & Shell company owned by Mr Desmond and that the deal was closed with immediate effect.

Gerhard Zeiler, chief executive officer of RTL Group, said: "With a significant recovery of the UK TV advertising market and Five performing well in the first half of 2010, we saw a window of opportunity to realise a transaction based on a fair evaluation of Five.

"The disposal is in line with RTL Group's strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets.

"I would like to thank the whole team at Five and CEO and chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past 20 months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company."

It has been reported that Mr Desmond, who is said to be worth £950 million, will transform the station's schedule with more reality and celebrity material.

This might include a revival of Big Brother, which is in its final series on Channel 4.

Today's Times newspaper said Mr Desmond had had direct discussions with Endemol, the owner of the programme, about broadcasting it next year.

Britain's fifth terrestrial channel, which launched with a provocative blend of films, soccer matches and naughty, near-the-knuckle shows as it tried to carve out its own unique position, had 5% share of TV viewing in the UK last year.

It is now the home for popular shows such as Neighbours, The Mentalist and CSI, with Justin Lee Collins, who was poached from Channel 4, among its raft of presenters.

RTL became the sole owner five years ago.

Dawn Airey, Five's chair and chief executive, said: "Northern and Shell are an international media business with a prominent position in the UK.

"We now move forward under the ownership of a successful media company that wants to grow our business and has exciting plans for the development of Five.

"We very much look forward to working with them."