Irish radio boss in acquisition of eight stations

Denis O'Brien. Picture: Getty
Denis O'Brien. Picture: Getty
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radio station Capital Scotland is among eight that have been acquired from Global Radio by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien’s media company Communicorp Group in a deal believed to be worth £35 million.

The move will propel Communicorp into fourth position in the UK commercial radio sector behind Global, Bauer and TalkSport-owner UTV Media.

Global has been forced to sell the stations by the competition authorities following its £70m acquisition of GMG Radio.

The Competition Commission has deemed Communicorp a “suitable owner”, although the sale is subject to approval by regulators in Ireland. Communicorp already owns 19 radio stations in Ireland, Bulgaria, Jordan and Latvia.

Together the eight stations acquired from Global have 2.8 million listeners, according to Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar). Communicorp intends to retain the management team of Real & Smooth Limited. Former Global Radio managing director Mark Lee, who managed the GMG stations following the merger of the two companies, will remain chief executive of Communicorp’s UK business.

The Real stations will be rebranded under the Heart franchise while the Smooth stations will be relaunched following the reintroduction of local programming. Rajar listening figures, released this week, show the station has 552,000 weekly listeners, an increase of 84,000 on the same period last year. The Capital Breakfast Show achieved its highest-ever reach with 336,000 tuning in weekly.

The other stations being acquired by Communicorp are Capital South Wales, Real XS Manchester, Real Radio North Wales, Real Radio Yorkshire, Smooth East Midlands, Smooth North East and Smooth North West.

O’Brien, pictured below who is also the largest shareholder in Ireland-based Independent News & Media, will license the radio brands from Global Radio which will continue to handle national advertising for Communicorp.

Gervaise Slowey, Communicorp’s chief executive, said: “The brand licence agreement that we have in place with Global for Heart, Capital and Smooth will allow us to combine the clout of a national brand with local presence, and we feel this model will provide the best of both worlds to our listeners and our customers.”

According to Rajar, BBC Radio’s share of listening against commercial competitors fell slightly from 55.3 per cent to 55.2 per cent in the quarter from 16 September to 15 December last year. However, a record 36.22 million people listened to all BBC Radio stations in the period. This compares to 35.19 million in the previous year.