Less than a year after teaming up to usher in a new digital internet radio era, radio moguls Tbo Touch and Gareth Cliff have split - with those close to them saying that their business interests have grown apart.
The pair were set to revolutionise the internet radio space in South Africa when they announced in July last year that they had joined forces to start the country's first ever 24-hour online music channel, TouchCentral.
They were inseparable as business partners, sharing offices and joining forces in the #DataMustFall campaign.
But suspicions of a split between the two and their brands were raised earlier this month when Touch announced that he was re-branding his internet radio station from TouchCentral to Touch HD.
At the launch of Touch HD this week, Touch explained to TshisaLIVE that he had to change his TouchCentral brand because of the confusion with CliffCentral.
"People confused CliffCentral and TouchCentral a lot, we needed to break away as much as possible. Gareth Cliff is ‘talk radio,’ TouchHD is music. I had to always explain and answer questions like, ‘Are you owned my Cliff Central’ –no. The ‘central’ was the confusion and I’m glad with the revamp we didn't just change the name we added bigger personalities because it has to be bigger than Touch, it has to also be bigger than Gareth," he said
He also paid tribute to Gareth at the launch, calling him on stage and saying that the night would not have been possible without him.
But a final press release for the new station surprisingly did not mention Gareth's name at all. So, is there beef?
Touch HD spokesperson Lulu Ndevu explained that they had not included Gareth's name on press releases for Touch HD because he was out of the country at the time and had not authorised them to use his name in the release, but admitted that the pair's brands had grown apart.
"Touch just realised that his and Gareth's business models were completely different and the two services had to grow apart," Lulu told TshisaLIVE.
Gareth was not available for comment but his spokesperson Rina Broomberg brushed over the speculation of a rift between the two, explaining that "CliffCentral was always supposed to be an incubator to foster TouchCentral" and that it was part of the plan for Touch and his team to eventually go solo.
"We both felt that the re-brand was necessary and we have offered our assistance however we can. But at the end of the day, this is Touch's service and Gareth is not involved at all," Rina added.