Media: Lifeline - David Elstein

The erstwhile Thames TV director and Channel 5 chief has acquired the Hallmark Channel.

1986: Elstein, a man regarded in media circles as a near-genius because he has a university degree, has established a reputation as a militant spokesman for the independent production sector. So he shocks many when he accepts the job of director of programmes at Thames Television - then the biggest programming job in commercial television - at the tender age of 41.

1992: He is part of a young management team that achieves the unthinkable when Thames, the biggest company in the ITV network, manages to lose its London weekday franchise to the unfancied challenger Carlton in the ITV franchise auction. Programming hostile to the Thatcher government - such as Death on the Rock - is partially to blame.

1993: Having lost the ITV franchise, Elstein is heavily involved in a Thames bid to run the new Channel 5. When that also fails, he astonishes the market once more (he is, after all, a current affairs programme producer at heart and has railed against declining programming standards) by defecting to BSkyB.

1996: His honeymoon period at Sky having expired, Elstein jumps at the chance when the chief executive's job at Channel 5 is offered to him. In 2000, after successfully launching the new channel, he steps down. He becomes a consultant and is rumoured to be behind a possible venture capital bid for ITV. It fails to materialise.

Now: Backed by a group of venture capital investors, Elstein (pictured) fronts the acquisition of the international assets of the Hallmark Channel for $245 million from Crown Media Holdings.

Fast forward: 2010 - Elstein begins spreading rumours in the City that Hallmark, now running neck-and-neck with ITV in the ratings when it comes to drama, is about to engineer a reverse takeover of the network. Having failed in a bid to become the chairman of the BBC, Elstein accedes to a Bafta campaign suggesting that he should donate his brain to science.

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