The Private Investor: 'Michael Green was lucky, the ITV ship is clearly sinking'

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First, a word of congratulations to the shareholders in the new Granada-Carlton ITV combine. I possess little in the way of wisdom, but even I can see ITV doesn't have much of a future. The fiasco of ITV Digital did so much financial damage it is hard to see how ITV can rally the resources it needs to become the global player it wishes to be.

The rest of the damage to Channel 3's prospects has been inflicted by ITV's programme commissioners and schedulers. Squeezed between BBC and BSkyB, it is difficult to see how ITV can find a way out of long- term decline, from a position where it was one button out of two on the TV remote control to being one out of 50 or 100 or more in the digital age.

Depriving Michael Green, former head of Carlton, the chairmanship of the new entity is sweet revenge for all those who lost money in the ITV Digital adventure. It will make little difference to the future of the company, which is determined by forces even larger than the super-wealthy and volatile Mr Green.

He may be spitting feathers at his forced removal, but if he had hung around on the sinking ITV ship for much longer his eventual humiliation might have been still greater. Perhaps he might consider a move to BSkyB, which seems to be having a little trouble of its own with executive recruitment.

The good news is that the shareholder revolution is spreading, with the BSkyB annual meeting on 14 November likely to host another revolt against boardroom arrogance. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and largest shareholder, wants his son, James, aged 30 - 30! - to become the new chief executive. It is not an uncontroversial appointment; it will be a lively agm.

I was never a shareholder in Granada or Carlton, although I was a member of the Border television company, creators 30 years ago of Mr and Mrs, an afternoon game show hosted by the gentle Derek Batey, whose catchphrase was, "Be nice to each other", with which he signed off each episode.

Batey's show was always followed by the 5.45pm ITN News which was full of typical 1970s stories about terrorists blowing up planes, strikes bringing entire industries to a standstill and football hooligans kicking each other to death. So Batey's entreaty teed up the news appropriately.

Border represented everything that was good and bad about the old regional ITV set-up, swept away by Michael Green and his allies. Good that it provided jobs and a commercial base in the regional "capital", Carlisle, with a genuine commitment to local news and features. Bad because, well, I don't want to be rude but Batey wasn't exactly the last word in entertainment.

By the mid-1990s, anyone could see it was going to get gobbled up. Border ended up being bought by Capital FM so they could get their hands on its regional radio interests and sell the TV stuff to Granada. It was an extremely profitable investment for me, because Capital bid for Border at the height of the technology-media-telecoms (TMT) boom. I took profits, but also rolled some of my gains into Capital paper, which has not been such a clever move.

Better for me has been buying successive tranches of shares in ARM Holdings since they collapsed after the end of the great TMT bull market, ending in a profits warning a year ago, when the shares hit a low of 45p. Since, they've climbed to 115p and they issued a grim profits warning. ARM is a great British success story, although it is hardly a household name. Based in Cambridge, it designs - but doesn't make - microchips for mobile handsets and DVD players for the likes of Nokia and Samsung.

The market took its hugely improved results coolly last week, but they were good. ARM is returning to year-on-year growth revenues and orders, although its profits this time were down. Its cash balance has swelled to £151m in the third quarter. There was a strong hint some of this may be used as a dividend. A divi from ARM? The recovery really must be under way.


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