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Saturday, 26 September 2009

ITV In Crisis Talks

ITV was plunged into fresh turmoil yesterday after pulling the plug on its No1 choice for top boss.

First the ailing broadcaster revealed it had severed talks with frontrunner Tony Ball to take over as chief executive.

Then Michael Grade, whom he was due to replace, announced he was stepping down early.

The double blow risks leaving ITV rudderless as it battles with a slump in advertising revenue.

Last month ITV announced a £105million loss for the first six months of the year.

The latest twist in the saga came in a statement from ITV yesterday in which it confirmed that it had walked away from talks with Mr Ball. Insiders blame excessive demands by Mr Ball, the former head of BSkyB, for scuppering the deal.

It is understood he initially wanted a £42million, five-year pay-and-perks package.

He was also reported as having asked for share options back-dated to when he was first "linked" to the job in May. ITV considered that unacceptable, particularly in the current economic downturn, and offered between £20m and £25m.

It said negotiations stalled amid disagreements, including "a failure to agree contractual arrangements"

It added:"The committee has concluded it would not be in the best interests of the company to appoint Mr Ball as ITV plc's chief executive."

The "final straw" came when Mr Ball demanded a veto over the rest of the ITV board on the choice of chairman.

Any such move would have given him massive power.

Industry veteran Michael Grade announced last April that he would be stepping down as executive chairman - a role that combines both chairman and chief executive.

At the time he said his plan was to become a part-time non-executive chairman.

But in yesterday's announcement, ITV said Mr Grade would be severing all ties with the company.

It added that it was in "advanced" talks with a number of candidates to take over as chairman, with an announcement expected in weeks.

"The committee is confident of appointing a non-executive chairman in the near future," said ITV.

But it refused to comment on reports that Sir Crispin Davis, the former boss of publisher Reed Elsevier, was poised to take over.


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