Virgin Radio Sold To Times of India Publisher For $106 Million

imageIndian media company Bennett, Coleman & Co, owner of Times of India newspaper, has made its biggest international buy: it has bought out UK’s Virgin Radio for about $106 million. SMG, the Scottish broadcaster, owner of Virgin Radio (it bought the company in 2000), sold the national AM licence and FM London licence to TIML Golden Square, a subsidiary of Bennett Coleman, and Absolute Radio, an Irisg radio investor and consultancy, reports FT. This is B&C’s first international acquisition and its first step towards an ambitious vision of creating a new music entertainment brand for the UK, the story says. This deal may also be one of the largest ever done by an Indian media company outside of India.

But, the brand name will not be part of the sale, as Richard Branson-owned Virgin Group objected to it. Bennett Coleman competes with the Hindustan Times group, with which Virgin Group has a joint venture in India. So, TIML and Absolute will invest about $30 million in rebranding the station, and will use as the multi-format and multiplatform service, with an online music subscription service, online video and mobile apps. History of Virgin Radio is here.

The buyers can use the Virgin brand name for 90 days, but will have to give it up after that. It will cost them an extra $16 million if they decide to licence that brand name within the next two years. Bennett Coleman’s media assets include The Times of India, the world’s largest-circulation English language daily newspaper, and channels Times Now and Zoom. It also runs a radio business under the Radio Mirchi brand.

Robert adds: Virgin Radio is commonly held to be the first radio station in Europe to broadcast on the internet, a feat it pulled off in 1996, and operates a strong multiplatform approach. It was prowess shaped under digital media director James Cridland. But, as SMG’s fortunes spiralled, Cridland left for the BBC last year. Cridland writes an epitaph for Virgin Radio – licence battles and all – on his blog.