RTL sells Five to Desmond for £103 millon

RTL has this afternoon confirmed that it has agreed a deal for Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell company to acquire UK broadcaster Five for £103.5 million (US$159.4 million).

RTL announced the deal this afternoon and said the deal is closed with immediate effect. Desmond’s company will own 100% of the UK broadcaster.

“With a significant recovery of the UK TV advertising market and Five performing well in the first half of 2010, we saw a window of opportunity to realise a transaction based on a fair evaluation of Five,” said RTL CEO Gerhard Zeiler in a statement. “The disposal is in line with RTL Group’s strategy of being number one or two in each of our markets. I would like to thank the whole team at Five and CEO & Chair Dawn Airey for their passion and professionalism, especially in the difficult past 20 months which saw a comprehensive restructuring of the company.”

Reports earlier today suggested a deal was imminent.

Desmond’s publishing empire includes the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers and OK! magazine. His plans for the channel, should he close the deal, have not been made public, but there is a widespread expectation that it would become a televisual equivalent of his celebrity and style magazines.

It would have to broadcast a certain amount of news and current affairs programming under the terms of its broadcasting license, which runs to 2014.