Surprise winners of Gold Coast and Nambour licences

Mysterious upstart Hot Tomato bid $26 million to edge out DMG for the 3rd Gold Coast FM licence, while local company Pty Ltd paid just $8.2 million for the Sunshine Coast’s 3rd FM licence.

Marcus Fitz-Gerald was at Brisbane’s City Hall for radioinfo and filed this report:

The best was saved for last as some of Australia’s final new regional radio licences were auctioned off at Brisbane’s City Hall at 2pm Monday 27 August. Two hours of mystery and surprise saw the third FM licences for the Gold and Sunshine Coasts both sold to Australian interests.

In a lengthy, and at times entertaining bidding war, 102.9 FM Gold Coast was auctioned off for $26 million to Hot Tomato Pty Ltd, currently a shelf company registered in late May. Jaan Torv was the bidder who outgunned an enthusiastic attempt by DMG Chairman Paul Thompson. With a $250 000 reserve, bidding started slowly with $3 million first offered from DMG followed by 1 million replies from Their upper limit was $9 million, leaving DMG and Hot Tomato remaining to bid in half millions until $20 million. After that bidding was considerably slower, moving by quarter million increments until Hot Tomato finally secured the Gold Coast FM licence for $26 million after just under 30 minutes of suspense.

Hot Tomato bidder Jaan Torv’s family is at home with the media, his brother is Hans Torv and his niece is Elizabeth Murdoch, although neither have any official links with the Hot Tomato company. Jaan Torv would only give a clue to the format by stating, “it is the FM band.” DMGRR’s Rob Gamble was pragmatic about the situation telling radioinfo, “It’s about relative worth, we paid $27 million for Perth so it was just not realistic for a market like the Gold Coast.” Privately, other media people at the auction speculated the licence was overpriced and doubted the success of the licencee.

Possibly the licence bargain of the year was the $8.2 million paid for the Sunshine Coast licence 91.1 FM. Any Brisbane licencees were effectively barred from this auction due to an overlap greater than 30%. In contrast, bidding was thick and fast rising from a $100 000 reserve quickly to $5 million when, entered soon after. Janet Cameron’s Grant Broadcasters stopped at $6.75 million.’s bidder faced off against former Channel 7 Brisbane General Manager Les Riley’s Sunshine Coast FM Pty Ltd. Mr Riley said, “It was about my upper limit, there was no point entering a bidding war.” A philosophical Janet Cameron told radioinfo of her future plans now, “That’s all for now, we will look after our current licences.” Sunshine Coast FM stations can be easily received across Brisbane.

The auction was well attended by Brisbane radio notables and a large media contingent was present. In the relaxed atmosphere of the room the 4BH incident was still the topic of conversation.

As usual, the licences will go to air in the next 12 months. Last year incumbent owner in both regions, RG Capital, instigated unsuccessful legal action against the new licence auctions.

Undoubtedly, the surprise packet of today’s auctions was the Hot Tomato company. $26 million winner of the Gold Coast licence, Jaan Torv spoke in detail to Marcus Fitz-Gerald for radioinfo.

radioinfo: Why did you choose to bid for this licence?
Torv: The Gold Coast is a growth market, it is a diverse one and one which is very exciting and unique for us. The Gold Coast will soon enough take over from Perth in market size. Investors seek growth and here we have growth and opportunity.

radioinfo: Why have you only bid for this licence?
Torv: The Sydney price were far too expensive and there are just not that many radio ownership opportunities in Australia. It was a high price to pay, but when all the pins line up, you just have to go for it.

radioinfo: Why are you interested in radio?
Torv: I was very determined to secure this Gold Coast licence as I am passionate about radio, especially the creative aspect at a time when most stations are homogenised – like McDonalds stores.

radioinfo: Would you mind giving me a personal history of your career?
Torv: Sure. I started at 4MB Maryborough, my very first job in radio – then 2GF, 2AD, I did a stint in TV NRN 11 Coffs Harbour, and 2SM. I moved to the US to stations WGAR – Cleveland, Ohio and KIIS in Los Angeles, California. After that I returned to Sydney worked as Creative Program Consultant to various capital city stations including 2UE & 2SM in Sydney, 3DB Melbourne, 4IP Brisbane, 5AD Adelaide and 6PR Perth. It was during this time that I came up with the ‘Rocktober’ concept – October was a down rating period for 2SM and thought why not celebrate a month of rock n roll – so I added an ‘R’ and it snowballed worldwide from there. Later, I applied for one of the original Sydney FM licences and was so depressed when the late Bruce Gyngell (Chairman of the ABT) awarded one of the Sydney FM licences (2DAY FM) to a TV presenter that I decided to pursue TV and motion pictures.

radioinfo: Can you reveal your ownership structure and format direction?
Torv: Not at this stage, Hot Tomato is a privately owned company and we choose to make no statement or comment about structure. On radio programming and formatting in general, I believe in working to keep the listeners as happy and entertained as possible at all times.