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Rumours of Planet 24 Sale
05 Nov 1998 :
Planet 24, the television production company owned by Bob Geldof, which produces the Big Breakfast Show for Channel 4 and was behind the shelved attempt to set up Atomic TV in Ireland, may be sold in a deal worth £30 million. The Sunday Times has reported that discussions have been held about the sale of Planet 24 to Granada Group and Carlton Communications who own several ITV franchises. Planet 24 is one of Britain's largest independent production company and analysts believe it to be worth in the region of £30 million, which means Geldof and his two partners, Waheed Ali and Charlie Parsons, would realise £10 million each from the sale.

Geldof is world famous as a former singer with The Boomtown Rats and as organiser of the Live Aid concerts in the mid eighties. Waheed Ali became the youngest life peer earlier this year and is one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs. He is deeply involved in Labour politics and worked for Labour on the last election campaign specific responsibility to attract the young vote. Parsons developed his career through Channel 4's award winning youth magazine programme Network 7 and on the Passengers series. He now runs a corporate media consultancy.

Planet 24's flagship Big Breakfast programme came on air six years ago when it's proposal beat 31 other shortlisted contenders and was an instant hit with peak ratings of 1.5 million, although the audience has halved since then with stiff competition rallying after nearly being wiped out by the show. The three partners are reported to have earned Stg£648,000 as directors of the company in the year to March. Planet 24 made profits after tax of Stg£1.08 million on a turnover of Stg£16.7 million and employs 200 people.

The sell-off may proceed once Planet 24 has sealed a number of new commissions which include a show for an American Network.

The proposal for the setting up of Atomic TV, a twenty four hour music video cable service with six hours of programming repeated four time within a twenty four hour period to be launched in Ireland, was postponed in August of this year. Planet 24 planned to bypass Irelands licensing laws by broadcasting Atomic TV via cable, MMDS and satellite, effectively securing what amounted to a national television licence such as the editorial and financial conditions applied to other broadcasters. The studio was to be based in Dublin. But the plan was postponed when overseas investors became nervous of the legal consequences after the IRTC came out against the station even though they had no legal power to stop it and it was popular with politicans. Also investors feared extra expense and want to wait until they know who will buy Cablelink (which is critical to the success of the station). A licensing application is no longer before Irish authorities and chief executive Martin Goswami said at the time that they would wait until they found out who bought Cablelink before considering reapplication.

Michael McMahon 5/11/98





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