ITV board nar­rows the field in search for new chief

The Guardian - - FINANCIAL - Mark Sweney He­len McCrory as Emma Banville in ITV’s Fear­less and, be­low, ITV chair­man Sir Peter Bazal­gette (left) and out­go­ing CEO Adam Crozier

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.”

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