When Global Radio swallowed GCap Media in a £300m deal in 2008, to add to its previous acquisition of Heart and Chrysalis Radio, it promised a revolution in the mostly moribund UK commercial sector.
That didn’t seem to be happening as the company, backed by the Irish racing mafia of John Magnier, JP McManus and Michael Tabor, reshuffled its management and placed Tabor’s unproven son Ashley in charge. But Tabor junior recruited Mail on Sunday ad director Stephen Miron to replace the departed Fru Hazlitt (now at ITV) and, finally, the company seems to be motoring.
Now it’s planning to roll out its London brand Capital Radio to the rest of the country, effectively competing with the BBC’s Radio 1 for the ‘yoof’ market. Heart, now also a national brand, competes with Radio 2, the biggest radio station in the UK, while Classic FM, the jewel in GCap’s former crown, comfortably outstrips the BBC’s Radio 3 classical music station.
Capital will take over as GCap’s national youth brand from Galaxy and also absorb a number of local music stations, mostly in Global’s Hit Music Network.
Global still has a mountain to climb if it’s going to catch the Beeb. The most recent figures show that the corporation captured 54.6 per cent of all radio listening in the second quarter of 2010 with all the commercial stations on 43.2 per cent. Global doesn’t have a talk station to match Radios 4 and 5 so overall leadership looks beyond its grasp.
But the Capital move at least indicates a strategy and it’s essentially to leverage Global’s size in the sector. This shouldn’t comes as a surprise from the Irish, who made their fortunes from dominating the market for horse racing thoroughbreds.
They have also shown they’re not afraid of taking on the other big boys. In horse racing they have far outstripped Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed whose millions once dominated the sport. They even gave Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson a good kicking when he fell out with them over the ownership for stud purposes of a horse they ‘gave’ him, Rock of Gibraltar.
They put Fergie in his place by buying a large share in Man U and then selling it on to the American Glazer family, thereby consigning the once cash-rich football club to a highly-indebted future.