LONDON • Jamie Oliver has struck a new multi-million-pound "golden handcuffs" deal with Channel 4, including a new television series, that will tie him exclusively to the broadcaster for the next three years.
The agreement, which will extend his exclusive relationship with Channel 4 to 17 years, is a fillip for the celebrity chef after he was forced to shut six underperforming restaurants earlier this year.
It will include a brand new eight- part television series this autumn, Jamie's Quick & Easy, which will be accompanied by a cookbook through his publisher Penguin.
"Sometimes, the simplest things are the best. I can't believe it's taken me 20 years to work out that just focusing on five ingredients, killer combinations and technique can give you some of the most exciting cooking ever," said Oliver of his new series. He will also make an extended 12-episode run of Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Feast.
He started his television career at the BBC with The Naked Chef in 1999, before defecting to Channel 4 in 2002 to make Jamie's Kitchen.
He blamed lower footfall, the cost of staff training and the higher costs of importing luxury ingredients in a tough market following the European Union referendum result for the recent closure of six Jamie's Italian outlets, which affected about 120 staff.
It is not the first backward step he has made since opening his first restaurant in 2002.
In 2015, he shut the last of his delicatessens, Recipease in Notting Hill, following the closure of branches in Clapham Junction and Brighton the previous year.
And in 2014, he gave up an attempt to revive traditional British grub, closing three of four of his Union Jack restaurants. Only the branch in London's Covent Garden continues to operate.
Restaurants are crucial to the Oliver empire, accounting for almost three-quarters of the £158-million (S$273-million) revenues his overall business made in 2015, according to the most recent publicly available figures.
Overall, revenues for Oliver's restaurant operation were up 8.6 per cent in 2015, although pre-tax profits fell by 39 per cent to £2.3 million due to fees from its abortive attempt to bring in private equity backing. Stripping this out, profits rose by 7.4 per cent.
Oliver is planning to open 22 restaurants, from Dusseldorf to Reykjavik to Australia, under the Jamie's Italian and other brands. By year- end, he is planning to have more than 100 restaurants worldwide.
He has restructured and refocused his media businesses after revenues fell by a quarter to £31.9 million in 2015.
Pre-tax losses of £9.8 million in 2014, a year hit by exceptional write-offs, improved to just £1 million in the red in 2015.
In September, Oliver scrapped his network of YouTube channels, which had grown to 17 with various food stars, including DJ BBQ and Cupcake Gemma, to focus on the core three he is directly involved with - Food Tube, Drinks Tube and Family Food.
The overhaul includes a rethink of his monthly food travel and lifestyle magazine, Jamie.
Hearst, owner of Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Harper's Bazaar, has taken over the publishing contract and the repositioned magazine, targeting the urban female "foodie" market and focusing more on Oliver himself.
Oliver's empire saw total pre-tax profits rise from £200,000 in 2014 to £10.2 million in 2015, enough to allow him to reportedly pocket a £3-million dividend.