ITV board narrows the field in search for new chief
ITV’s hunt for a chief executive has narrowed to a shortlist that includes a senior Sky executive, the boss of the insurance group Direct Line and the head of the Scottish broadcaster STV.
Its board is expected to discuss the selection process at a meeting this week that may identify Adam Crozier’s successor, with an official announcement expected in July. The shortlist is led by Andrew Griffith, chief operating officer at Sky, Paul Geddes, chief executive of Direct Line, and Rob Woodward, the outgoing chief executive of STV, which holds the ITV broadcasting licences for northern and central Scotland.
Candidates thought to still be in the running also include Simon Pitts, the highly rated managing director of ITV’s digital and pay TV strategy, who is also thought to have made it to final interviews for the Channel 4 chief executive role. John Smith, the former chief operating officer at Burberry and former chief of BBC Worldwide, is also viewed as a potential contender.
ITV’s nominations committee is understood to be seeking a candidate with solid experience at a major publicly listed company, with headhunters Spencer Stuart casting the net beyond the media sector and flagging the candidacy of Geddes, who is also a non-executive director at Channel 4. ITV’s chairman, Sir Peter Bazalgette, the former chairman of Big Brother maker Endemol, has no experience of chairing a listed business and it is thought that some FTSE experience would bolster ITV’s board-level operations.
ITV is a major broadcaster and programme producer, making shows including Fearless and Come Dine With Me. Crozier leaves at the end of the month with no successor in place. This comes despite multiple sources saying that ITV’s board has been aware of Crozier’s intention to leave since as far back as October.
At the end of last year the broadcaster admitted it had appointed Spencer Stuart to handle a succession mapping exercise. The process for Channel 4 to appoint a new chief executive took less than three months, with Alex Mahon set to take over from David Abraham in October or early November.
ITV has put in place an interim measure that will see Bazalgette take the temporary role of executive chairman. Finance director Ian Griffiths, highly rated by the city but not thought to have put his hat in the ring for the chief executive role, will run the company as chief operating officer until Crozier’s replacement starts.
When ITV announced Crozier’s departure at the beginning of May, Bazalgette said that the company had a “well-developed succession plan” in place.
Bazalgette was given a light grilling by investors at ITV’s annual meeting later that month, at which he said: “Nothing has gone wrong, we are in a good place.”
One top 10 ITV shareholder said that despite outward appearances the broadcaster had been preparing for Crozier’s departure for a considerable time.
“We have been fully engaged with the board over the last six to nine months over succession planning,” said the investor, who did not wish to be named. “We saw the chairman at the end of last year and don’t have concerns over the process. It is a fully thought-out process.”
Sir Martin Sorrell – the chief executive of WPP, one of the biggest spenders on behalf of advertisers on ITV – said ITV had a tough task choosing its next leader, with the TV advertising market under attack from Facebook and Google and viewers being lured away by the rise of streaming rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.
“Clearly [ITV] is going to need somebody who has a fundamental understanding of traditional and new, over the top [internet] services, so it is a balance,” he said. “They probably need a global understanding as well, as ITV is now a much more international business. It is not an easy position to fill from the point of view that the capabilities you need are very broad. It is a very demanding role. A pretty all-embracing job description.”
A spokesman for ITV said: “The board has a well-developed succession plan in place and is focused on the process of finding a successor.”