Richard Branson backs Liberty’s £15bn Virgin Media swoop

Sir Richard Branson. Picture: Getty
Sir Richard Branson. Picture: Getty
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Sir Richard Branson has welcomed Virgin Media’s $23.3 billion (£14.9bn) takeover by US cable giant Liberty Global,

describing the deal as “good news for the company, its customers and our people”.

The entrepreneur’s Virgin Group owns about 3 per cent of the cable television and tele-coms firm, which has almost five million customers across the UK. Liberty, which currently operates in 13 countries, including Ireland, has 19.6 million.

Virgin Media, formed by the merger of cable operators NTL and Telewest with Virgin Mobile in 2006, employs 14,000 people in the UK, including 2,000 in Scotland. Earlier this month it unveiled plans to create 60 jobs at its call centre in Bellshill to cope with demand for its broadband and television services.

The group said it would “continue to support the growth of customer-facing roles” and insisted that customers would see no changes to their services in the near future, although it will continue to invest in rolling out a faster broadband network.

The group’s chief executive, Neil Berkett, is to stand down when the deal – which is subject to shareholder approval – completes later this year.

Branson said: “Neil Berkett and the team took two run-down cable networks and turned them into the best cable network in the world, in just seven years.”

Virgin will become a “disruptive challenger” to rivals such as BT and BSkyB, Berkett said, but would not be competing for entertainment and sports rights.

BSkyB, the UK’s largest subscription television firm with 10.7 million customers, is 39 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Liberty chairman John Malone went head-to-head against Murdoch a decade ago in a battle for control of US satellite broadcaster DirecTV.