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ITV in urgent talks with pair over vacant chairman role.

ITV was yesterday reported to be holding urgent talks with the two front runners for the job of chairman in a bid appoint someone to the role within three weeks.

Sir Crispin Davis, the former boss of Reed Elsevier, and airline entrepreneur Sir Michael Bishop, who chaired Channel 4, are believed to be the favourites for the job.

The broadcaster is also said to have approached former BBC and BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland and British Airways chairman Martin Broughton.

The need to appoint a new chairman has become urgent after the group announced on Friday that its executive chairman Michael Grade wanted to leave the company as soon as possible.

The first job of the new chairman will be to appoint a new chief executive, after talks with former BSkyB boss Tony Ball, who had been chosen for the post, broke down over "significant differences" on Friday.

Mr Ball had come under fire for the size of his pay demands - said to have initially been as much as pounds 42 million in a share and pay arrangement over five years, although this was reduced to around pounds 20 million as the negotiations progressed.

But he is also thought to have demanded the right to veto potential candidates for the chairmanship after Sir Crispin's name came into the frame.

Leading shareholders in the group are also understood to be unhappy about the prospect of Sir Crispin taking over.

They are said to be concerned about Sir Crispin's record as chief executive of Reed Elsevier.

No one from ITV could be contacted to comment yesterday, but the Sunday Times quoted a spokesman as saying: "Obviously shareholders are entitled to their own views. But the board has discussed potential candidates with shareholders who account for half the register and they are supportive of the candidates being considered."

Meanwhile, broadcasters and private equity firms were said to be circling ITV in a bid to take advantage of the current disarray and acquire the group.

Germany's RTL group, which owns television station Five, is said to be considering making an offer for ITV, along with Mediaset, which is owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and a number of private equity firms, according to the Mail on Sunday.

ITV - home to hit shows including Coronation Street and X-Factor - has been hit hard by the economic downturn, which has led to falling advertising revenues.

Last month it unveiled a pounds 105 million loss for the first six months of the year.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 28, 2009
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