An outspoken publisher with a flair for self-promotion, Sondhi Limthongkul has never shied away from the media spotlight. In the 1990s, as his Manager Media Group (M Group) expanded beyond Thailand, Mr Sondhi became a fixture on the social circuit in Bangkok and Hong Kong. He showered money on lavish launch parties and smooth talked his way into banking circles that financed his ambitious ideas, including the short-lived regional newspaper Asia Times, now available only online. Then came the collapse of the Thai economy in 1997 and the humiliating crash of M Group. A painful restructuring ended in bankruptcy court, with total debts estimated at 20 billion baht ($3.9 billion) and hundreds of workers left out of pocket. In recent years, Mr Sondhi, 48, has revived his media group. His flagship Thai-language newspaper has been joined by TV shows and satellite channels, an English-language newspaper and a popular website. His current fame rests not on his media outlets but on his increasingly strident campaign to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former friend and business partner. The campaign appeared to broaden this week when other campaign groups formed an alliance to continue pressing for constitutional reform and the removal of the ebullient Mr Thaksin, who has brushed aside the calls. Last weekend, more than 30,000 people gathered in Bangkok to hear Mr Sondhi issue another thunderous anti-Thaksin broadside. Wearing a headband carrying the slogan 'Save the Country', Mr Sondhi took the stage to call for constitutional reform to rein in 'the most corrupt government' of his lifetime. Standing atop a shipping container draped in banners and surrounded by royal symbols, he led the crowd in throaty cries of 'Thaksin. Get Out!' He then presented a petition asking Thailand's revered monarch to remove Mr Thaksin, raising cheers from the peaceful crowd, most of whom wore yellow royalist clothes in sympathy with the cause. It was the latest political shift by Mr Sondhi, an ethnic-Chinese journalist who started his career covering the bloody 1973 student-led uprising in Bangkok and flirting with radical causes. Educated in the US, where he completed a masters programme in history, Mr Sondhi launched a business monthly in the 1980s called Manager that has since become one of Thailand's most successful daily newspapers. The 1990s was a period when everything he touched turned to gold. It was also when he hooked up with Mr Thaksin, then a rising telecoms tycoon. According to Mr Sondhi, he allocated a stake in his own telecoms company to Mr Thaksin, betting that it would be a hot initial public offering. It was, and Mr Thaksin cashed out at a handsome profit. As M Group focused on publishing and satellite broadcasting - a joint project with the Lao government that failed to launch - the two men remained friends, though accounts differ of how close they were. The first turning point was the 1997 financial crisis. Mr Thaksin's largely debt-free conglomerate survived, allowing him to advance his fledgling political career and create his Thai Rak Thai party. Mr Sondhi quickly hit the wall as his sprawling empire ran out of cash and bankers called in loans. He became a vocal critic of the then-ruling Democrat Party and its International Monetary Fund-backed bankruptcy reforms. Mr Sondhi's fortunes appeared to change, however, after Thai Rak Thai took power in 2001. His debts were reportedly reduced from 1.8 billion baht to 200 million baht, and a state-run television channel invited him to produce prime-time shows that attracted lucrative advertising contracts. Mr Sondhi praised Mr Thaksin as a decisive CEO-style leader, and his media outlets did likewise. He also dismissed claims of government censorship. But it was a honeymoon that did not last, for reasons that remain murky. Some observers point to a bust-up over the removal of a prominent state banker who had been generous to the M Group, and the cancellation of television shows. Suddenly the gloves were off, and Mr Sondhi's media outlets turned on the administration. His surviving talk show, Thailand Weekly, laid into Mr Thaksin, who responded by cancelling the programme in September. Mr Sondhi upped the ante by taking to the streets of Bangkok to ram home his message that it is time for a change at the top. His clash with Mr Thaksin - whom he accuses of usurping the powers of the monarch and repressing critics - had been flagging before a controversial takeover deal was unveiled last month. Mr Thaksin's family agreed to sell a controlling stake in Shin Corp, its telecoms conglomerate, to Singapore-led investors for US$1.87 billion, sparking a public outcry. As a media tycoon, Mr Sondhi has cultivated an image as an 'ideas man' who leaves the details to others and quickly rushes on to the next project. Asia Times was typical of his splash-dash style, a newspaper launched in a competitive regional market that had little hope of turning a profit for several years. Mr Sondhi, though, hailed it as an Asian voice to compete with western-owned outlets, such as the Asian edition of The Wall Street Journal, and wrapped himself in a regional flag. 'I want to die as a pioneer - as the first Asian to get up and fight the western press,' he told Asiaweek magazine in 1995. Ironically, his latest newspaper venture launched last June is an English-language insert covering Thailand in the International Herald Tribune.