Media Lifeline: Virgin Radio

Having been bought by SMG, Virgin Radio has struggled to recapture the past glories of the 90s.

March 2000: Chris Evans, not only Virgin Radio's star DJ, but also (through his Ginger Media company) its owner, too, sells the station to SMG for £225 million. Evans stays on as an employee but is sacked after an acrimonious row the following year - and the station struggles to recapture the lustre it had in the 90s as one of commercial radio's new wave of national stations.

July 2006: The Virgin Radio acquisition was a big part of SMG's diversification strategy as it sought to escape its roots in Scottish television, but when the strategy fails to deliver growth, SMG's chief executive, Andrew Flanagan, resigns in July 2006. There's also speculation that the company will have to sell assets such as Virgin Radio, or find a white knight (the Irish media owner UTV is immediately mooted) to take over the company.

April 2007: But when talks with UTV come to nothing, SMG opts for plan B - float Virgin Radio as a publicly quoted entity. But plans are delayed as the credit crunch bites, then are scrapped when the Virgin Radio chief executive, Paul Jackson, defects to GCap.

September 2007: Now SMG comes up with plan C - a trade sale of Virgin Radio. It appoints LongAcre Partners to invite bids, and a number of interested parties emerge, including Guardian Media Group, Global Radio, Vitruvian (a private equity company) and, almost inevitably, UTV. But when bids allegedly fall far short of the £80 million asking price, the sale is called off.

February 2008: Oh no it isn't. The sale is on again. Perhaps. It's clear, though, that SMG's hearts are beating faster again at reports that Guardian Media Group and Global Radio are considering improved offers. SMG sources remind anyone willing to listen that Virgin Radio is a non-core asset, and that the company's long-term strategy is to concentrate on its Grampian Television and Scottish Television assets.

Fast forward ...

May 2008: With the radio ad business picking up, SMG sells its STV and Grampian assets - to Global Radio, led by the former ITV boss Charles Allen - to focus on radio. SMG announces it wants to be the sector's leader, and a bid for GCap is mooted.