Major staff cuts at Channel Five

Richard Desmond removes quarter of total employee base

LONDON -- Well, it didn't take long for Channel Five's new owner Richard Desmond to stamp his authority on the channel he bought from RTL last month.

In characteristic style the media mogul has ripped out the existing Five management team, firing seven of nine executive directors and announcing as many as 80 job cuts, a quarter of the total employee base.

Desmond said the moves were part of "long-term financial input in the field of £300 million ($471.3 million) per year for the next five years is planned by Northern & Shell," the mogul's media vehicle which also owns the Express newspapers and celebrity magazine brand OK.

Chairman and chief executive Dawn Airey, program head Richard Woolfe and managing director Mark White are just some of the execs to depart terrestrial network Five in a management cull. Airey will return to an as-yet undisclosed role at RTL.

But head of acquisitions Jeff Ford -- who negotiated deals for such key fare as "CSI," "The Mentalist," and "Law & Order," -- will stay on, becoming head of programs.

Five, the minnow of the U.K. terrestrial market, has struggled in recent years, with its program share and ad revenues sliding.

But under Desmond a turnaround could be possible.

Desmond may look at bringing youth-skewed ratings blockbuster "Big Brother" onto the channel, after it goes off air from Channel 4 at the end of the summer.

Crucially, he will almost certainly attempt to woo his friend Simon Cowell to the channel when his current deals with ITV expire.

The combination of Cowell, "Big Brother" and increased investment in acquisitions could be the recipe for success that has eluded Five over the past decade.
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