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Newspaper magnate Desmond buys Five

Newspaper and magazine proprietor Richard Desmond has bought TV channel Five.

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 was 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 over £950m, 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.

The 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.

RTL became the sole owner five years ago.

Belfast Telegraph