BROADCASTER ITV’s succession soap opera took a new twist today as another leading candidate for the chairman’s role ruled himself out of the running.
ITV is hunting for a chairman "with all due speed" after Sir Crispin Davis, former chief executive of publishing group Reed Elsevier, and now ex-BMI British Midland chairman Sir Michael Bishop bowed out.
Chief operating officer John Cresswell has agreed to become ITV’s interim chief executive, but in another blow has decided to leave "to seek a fresh challenge" when a permanent chief executive is appointed.
In September the broadcaster was in talks with former BSkyB chief Tony Ball over becoming the group’s next chief executive, but foundered over Mr Ball’s salary demands and disagreements over the chairmanship.
ITV's succession plans have been in the spotlight since it said in April that industry veteran Michael Grade would step down from his current executive role to become non-executive chairman before the end of the year.
During the hunt for a new chief executive, Mr Grade then agreed to sever his ties with the company altogether by stepping down as chairman.
Mr Ball made a public pitch for the chief executive job and was ITV’s preferred candidate, but the broadcaster blamed "substantial differences" for the failure to agree a contract.
According to reports, Mr Ball asked for a pay deal worth up to £30 million over five years, in return for restoring the fortunes of the X Factor and Coronation Street broadcaster.
The departure of John Cresswell will be a blow to the firm as he was seen as the strongest internal candidate for the role of chief executive.
ITV’s difficulties have not been confined to the boardroom as advertising revenues slide under the impact of recession.
The broadcaster made a £105 million loss in the first half of this year, as television advertising across the market suffered its worst year-on-year decline on record during the period.