beats Virgin in FM auction - 16th April 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald)
Whispering more than sweet nothings, someone on the
other end of the mobile phone stuck to Ian Grace's
ear bid $105 million for a commercial FM radio licence
for Sydney yesterday.
was not enough. DMG Radio, operator of Nova, forked
out $106 million to keep Sir Richard Branson off its
someone on the end of Grace's phone was probably John
Singleton, the advertising executive who had teamed
up with the Briton to try to crack Australia's most
lucrative radio market.
a former Singleton executive, was not saying who called
the shots. Nor was Bill Spain, the Gilbert & Tobin
lawyer who sat beside him and flashed the red cardboard
marker as the price edged all the way up from $55
million in single bids.
the single million, each wave of the cardboard. "It's
certainly more than I bid for my home," deadpanned
said he was not on the phone and did not know Grace,
chief executive of Virgin Radio Asia, was there. "There
was only one guy who needed to be there and that was
Spain. The rest had nothing better to do - or they're
charging me by the hour."
sale, conducted on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting
Authority by auctioneer Gus Rice, was like a game
of rich man's bluff. Paul Thompson, chief executive
of DMG, plonked his chips down quickly and confidently.
would then call the bid against Spain 10 or 20 times
until the phone bidder authorised another wave of
the cardboard on behalf of the odd numbers.
Thomson would counter with an even - immediately -
until the odds fell silent at $106 million.
veteran radio star Doug Mulray said it was nothing
like the old days. When Sydney's first commercial
FM licences were issued the operators paid not one
was a beauty parade then. There were 13 applicants
and Rod Muir got one [Triple M] and Mike Willesee
and John Laws got the other [2Day]," he said.
victory Thompson, who paid $155 million for the Nova
licence in 2000, acknowledged a premium was worth
paying. He hinted at a format aimed at a more mature
they had got the licence and come in and used it as
a platform for a national under-40 Virgin network
that would have been very damaging for us and that
was certainly taken into account when we finalised
the amount of money we were prepared to pay."
which said it remained committed to establishing an
Australian network, must now pay a premium to buy
out an existing Sydney operator.
everyone's going to succeed," Singleton said.
"There's more and more rats eating less and less
cheese. One day there's going to be a rat for sale."
tuned in, by Greg Tingle
Laws - Greg Tingle - 7th September 2000
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