This year’s top performer has made millions out of its television quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The show transformed the fortunes of Celador, part of Complete Communications, from a company that narrowly avoided bankruptcy to one with profits of £15.4m in 2000.
The idea for the show was conceived by David Briggs, who had worked for many years on Chris Tarrant’s Breakfast Show. Briggs was sure he was on to a winner with the Millionaire idea, but it took three years of development and tricky negotiations with ITV before the show was aired for the first time in September 1998.
Today, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is broadcast in 76 countries from Australia to Venezuela, and has topped the ratings charts across the globe, with 19m viewers in Britain and 35m in the United States at its peak.
Paul Smith, Celador’s founder and chairman, says: "I thought it would be successful but I never imagined it would be this successful."
For London-based Complete Communications, it has been like riding a tiger. The show contributed 80% of the group’s £45.5m sales in 2000 and has driven up profits by 177% a year, from £719,000 in 1997 to £15.4m in 2000, when it employed 66 staff. Its projected figures for 2001 are even better, with profits of £19m on sales of £53m.
Celador was founded in 1981, with Jasper Carrott as a shareholder. But four years later, bankruptcy threatened as the authorities came knocking at the door for nine months of unpaid VAT.
Smith, who had concentrated on programme development, then took financial control of the company.
It has gone on to produce other hits including the comedy programme Canned Carrott, Auntie’s Bloomers, which shows funny clips from the BBC’s archives, and most recently the quiz show Britain’s Brainiest.
As the popularity of Millionaire levels off – the British show attracts an audience of about 9m – Smith is coming under pressure to find a replacement. He is diversifying into films and music, and an American broadcasting-equipment supplier now owns 49% of the company.
Smith expects sales of Millionaire merchandise, such as the computer game, to keep the company’s turnover high for the next two years, making him and his wife Sarah King, who together own 36% of Complete Communications, the main winners of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
This profile reflects the company at time of publication and does not reflect any changes that may have subsequently occurred. Fast Track and its sponsors do not endorse, guarantee or recommend investment in any of the companies.