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Desmond leads race for Five

Media baron prepares $152 million bid

Pan-European broadcast group RTL’s cash-strapped U.K. terrestrial web Five could have a new owner by the end of the week.

Local media tycoon Richard Desmond, who built his fortune publishing porn and who still runs adult channels including Television X, is the hot favorite to buy Five.

Desmond is prepared to pay £100 million ($152 million) for the stricken web, according to reports in local media.

But should his bid fail, rival Channel 4 may be prepared to acquire Five — at a far lower price.

Channel 4’s interest is motivated by the fact that it wants to keep Five out of the hands of competitors BSkyB and ITV, who are also believed to be in the running.

For RTL, which recorded losses of $53 million last year, Desmond’s attraction is that he can move fast.

His bid is unlikely to run into regulatory issues and he has the coin.

“I’ve got so much fucking money, it’s ridiculous,” he quipped earlier this year.

As the owner of a portfolio of adult TV webs plus best-selling celeb mag OK!, and national newspapers the Daily Express and Daily Star, Desmond has a reported £1 billion ($1.52 billion) to burn.

The Daily Star, a sex and celeb-packed tabloid, is one of the few British papers to show consistent sales increases.

“I’m frustrated because I know we can do more. We have loads of dough, we’ve got to do something,” Desmond said recently. “I can’t buy anything because nobody will sell me anything I want to buy.”

If RTL accepts an offer from Desmond, the U.K. media maverick will finally have found another media asset to mold in his own inimitable style.

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