Original Xfm – The End
Unfortunately, Princess Diana had met her end in a tunnel the day before the station’s launch and took almost all media coverage away from the newly launched station, robbing it of much needed publicity. Elsewhere, a friend of Princess Diana’s was also indirectly to play his part. Having lost his attempt to secure a nationwide FM licence for Virgin Radio (the station had been broadcasting on 105.8 but only to London), Sir Richard Branson lost interest in his station and decided to, effectively sell up. It was all set for the Capital Radio Group to purchase the station – to the point they had made room for the studio’s in their Leicester Square Headquarters – until issues with the then Radio Authority put a spanner in the works – and a Mr. Evans stepped in and bought the station. This left Capital Radio and its shareholders reeling and demanding answers!
In the meantime, Xfm was beginning to build on its listener base, but too slowly for its Directors. There were also rumours of disquiet between Chris Parry (of Fiction Records fame who had housed the station in his offices in Charlotte Street), and the rest of the management. Rather than wait for the green shoots of hope to grow further, Parry met David Mansfield (then Chief Executive Officer of Capital Radio Group), a proposal was put forward for Capital to purchase the station, and the others on the board agreed to sell their shares to Parry, who then decided to throw his lot in with the Capital Radio Group.
With the awful events overshadowing the launch, listenership figures obviously not being what had been hoped for nor expected, and Capital Radio Group looking for a station to buy, it was an obvious choice – to purchase a troubled Xfm.
Nothing was announced “on-air”, but presenters were replaced with non-stop music of a ‘soft rock’ variety, while the studio’s were moved from Charlotte Street to Leicester Square, almost all the presenters and staff were fired, and the original sound and entity and spirit of Xfm was lost.
The music industry was appalled, and so were the listeners – going from waking up to The Smashing Pumpkins at breakfast to (infamously) The Cardigans within days of the takeover was more than most Xfm listeners could take and they switched off in their droves. As the Manic Street Preachers song of the time said “If you tolerate this then your children will be next”…!
Just over a year later on 7th April, 1999, Capital Radio Group bought the remaining shares in XFM from Chris Parry, valued at just over £1m. As of 13th September 2015, now re-branded from Capital Radio Group to Global Radio, XFM was finally re-branded to “Radio X” and the XFM brand was finally dropped entirely by Global Radio.
Somewhat ironically, there is only one member of the original staff remaining from its Q102 and Xfm days, John Kennedy – whose late night programme continues to champion the unknown and unheard of, just like Xfm in 1997 did.
Read about John Peel here.