The Virgin Media brand, which launched amid a £20m advertising drive in February, could be axed if the cable company is bought by Carlyle. The US private equity giant is said to be considering culling the brand, in a bid to restore relations with satellite giant BSkyB.
Virgin Media and Sky have been locked in a bitter row since the end of last year when chief executive James Murdoch acquired a blocking stake in ITV, thwarting the cable company’s ambitions to buy or merge with the commercial broadcaster.
The rival operators clashed again over the cost of carrying Sky’s “basic” pack of channels, including Sky News and Sky One, on the cable platform. Sky pulled the channels in March after failing to reach agreement, prompting Virgin Media to launch legal action.
Virgin Media formed following the merger of NTL and Telewest and the later acquisition of Virgin Mobile. Richard Branson is the entity’s largest shareholder and his Virgin Entertainment arm earns about £9m a year by licensing the Virgin name. That agreement would have to dismantled if Carlyle was to axe the brand.
Carlye has offered £11bn for Virgin Media. A number of other venture capitalists are said to be considering bidding for the UK cable company, which is currently listed in the US.