ITV’s CEO search troubles investors

UBS predicting ad revs at ITV1 will fall by 13% this year

LONDON — ITV’s attempts to find a successor to ex-CEO Charles Allen, ousted in August after the outfit’s dismal performance on the London stock market, are coming under increasing criticism.

One ex-topper at the network said the broadcaster faced “meltdown” as reports of a boardroom split continued to surface and a note from its own broker, UBS, downgraded ITV’s target share price.

“The longer this goes on, the more difficult it is going to be to find the right candidate, because it is hard to provide assurances that they are going to be given enough time to turn ITV around,” said a former ITV chief.

“Unless the board can agree on a shortlist very soon, ITV is looking at meltdown,” he added.

Swiss bank UBS, one of ITV’s three brokers, is predicting ad revenues at flagship web ITV1 will fall by 13% this year and 10% next year.

Although UBS analysts stressed they “continue to believe in our longer-term ITV investment case,” the short-term predictions for the broadcaster’s future have once again set alarm bells ringing.

On Tuesday, ITV’s stock price again slipped below the psychologically important £1 ($1.90) level as speculation saw predators waiting to pounce on the embattled broadcaster.

However, ITV chairman Sir Peter Burt told London’s Daily Mail the recruitment process for Allen’s successor was on track.

Burt, expected to ankle once a new CEO is on board, told the paper he had received no complaints from dissident stockholders about the time it was taking to find a replacement for Allen.

Embarrassingly for ITV, several high-profile candidates have publicly ruled themselves out for the job.

They include Channel 4 topper Andy Duncan and non-executive director Mike Clasper, whose interest in the job reportedly was blocked by some board members.

The favorite to succeed Allen is Stephen Carter, who recently left regulator Ofcom as CEO but, if appointed, would be unable to start work until the new year because of the terms of his Ofcom contract.

BSkyB topper Dawn Airey, ex-CEO of Five, also may be in the running for the gig.

Airey began her career at ITV and is one of the few potential candidates whose track record includes both creative and commercial achievement.

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