SMG has sold Virgin Radio to Times of India Group for £53.2m. The new owner plans to rebrand the station in the autumn with Virgin Enterprises retaining the name for its own global radio strategy.
The station will be operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of India’s largest media group, TIML Golden Square with UK company Absolute Radio, which already owns Jack FM in Oxford.
The group plans invest £15m launching a new music and entertainment format using the existing Virgin team. It will be a music-based proposition that will be “faithful” to the existing format and will be available across all platforms.
SMG chief executive Rob Woodward says: “I believe that £53.2 million represents a sound price for Virgin Radio and a good deal for SMG shareholders. The disposal of Virgin Radio is consistent with our overall strategy and the proceeds of the sale will allow us to return cash to shareholders, as well as further strengthen an already healthy balance sheet.”
Over the past 14 months, SMG has sold off non-core assets, including outdoor company Primesight, to reduce debt and invest in its TV business.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, says the decision for Virgin to retain the name was “arrived at collectively”. Since launching Virgin Radio International in 2001, the group has launched stations in France, Dubai, India, Thailand and Italy and is also seeking partnerships in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.