Richard Desmondís £100+ million bet on Channel 5 looks like to have paid off handsomely for the controversial publisherís Northern & Shell group which is reported to have tripled pre-tax profits.

According to reports in The Guardian, the Northern & Shell corporate body is to file accounts showing pre-tax profit of £30.3 million for 2010, compared with £8.9 million in the previous year.

Without doubt the engine for the growth has been the acquisition in July 2010 of Channel 5 from RTL in a deal worth £104 million. The UKís fifth most popular channel has deployed an adventurous content strategy of showing UEFA Cup/Europa League football and buying in popular US dramas, notably CSI whose latest season has delivered significant audiences for the broadcaster.

In a statement released following the acquisition, Desmond commented: "I am delighted to have taken ownership of the network, and know with the right investment, drive and leadership it can go from strength to strength as a competitive broadcaster and a modern player for the digital consumer."

Desmond added at the time that N&S would pump in £1.5 billion over the next five years, focusing resources on programme and content development. Yet it also swung an axe over the previous management under Dawn Airey who were regarded to have underperformed.

In its report the Guardian quoted N&S finance director Robert Sanderson as saying: "The significant step changes we have made to the business in the last year leave us well placed to further improve our financial performance and to build on our broader media interests"