Media Perspective: Picking off Emap is crucial challenge for gun-toting Global

It's been a tough week for Prince Philip. Following reports of a health scare, the 86-year-old then had to endure newspaper allegations that he drove to church having neglected to fasten his seatbelt and criticism from protest groups after he was pictured taking "pot shots" at game birds while at Sandringham.

Yet even a tooled-up Prince Philip has nothing on what's been going on down at Global Radio UK recently. The mortality rate for its management has been alarmingly high since June, when Global acquired Chrysalis Radio for £170 million. The new management team (chaired by the former ITV boss Charles Allen, and led by its chief executive, Ashley Tabor, and the Fame Academy judge and executive director Richard Park) has seemingly been loading cartridges ever since.

But while some believe that they have been indiscriminate in their actions, there has been a clear logic to what has been happening at Global. The heads of each major brand (including Heart and Galaxy) have moved on, making for a leaner structure, which suits Global's needs as a private investment vehicle and also allows Park (who is as close to radio royalty as you can get) to have the room he needs to operate. And it has had the sense to retain Don Thomson, the veteran sales chief at Chrysalis, since promoted to chief operating officer.

The changes smack of a clearing of the decks ahead of a possible acquisition of Emap Radio (Global is among the favourites to land the owner of Magic and Kiss in the ongoing bidding process). It's not just personnel, though, that Global has been culling. It has also parted company with the ad agency it inherited, CHI & Partners (swiftly replaced with The Law Firm), and then there followed the rumpus over its sales contract with GMG Radio.

The contract (to sell national airtime on behalf of the GMG brands Real, Smooth and Rock Radio) was terminated last week following a series of spats between GMG and Global. The business will move to GCap Media from January. Sources close to Global say that GMG wanted guarantees on revenues that Global could not meet, and that GMG was even pushing for conditions should Global successfully land Emap (a sale of Magic to GMG as part of the deal is rumoured to have been one condition). Equally, GMG's unease was understandable given that a new management team inherited its contract.

There is now greater pressure on Global to secure the Emap acquisition. GCap's capture of the GMG contract gives it 40 per cent of the commercial radio market based on total weekly listening, and it will be hard for Global's brands to compete with this in the long term. So don't bet against Global bagging its target.

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