After multi-billion pound deal done at Ritz, two tough leaders are now on same side

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MICHAEL GREEN, chief executive of Carlton, yesterday told City analysts his deal with United had been forged over three days of meetings with Clive Hollick at the Ritz in Paris.

The scene is compelling, because at the heart of the deal is the question of whether two of Britain's most powerful media tycoons will work happily together. Mr Green becomes chairman of the group and Lord Hollick, boss of United, becomes chief executive.

Neither man is renowned for his consensus working style and nurturing team spirit; both are regarded by colleagues as somewhat "difficult". Mr Green is, says a former colleague, "very, very bright. Straight-talking. He's like a dog with a bone: when he gets an idea he sticks with it. He won't let go."

He left school with three O- levels, started as an office boy, and has worked his way up. His key skill was as a deal-maker. He was best known as a control freak. These qualities, say colleagues, make him demanding to work with, but also helped him build Carlton into a major ITV player, and acquire a fortune of pounds 100m.

Lord Hollick is different. Unlike Mr Green, he is not regarded as a "mercurial charmer" but has a reputation as a business-obsessive, rather cold and ruthless in pursuit of power, often spending 12 hours a day alone in his office studying spreadsheets.

He is a grammar-school boy from Southampton who, after university, worked his way up in the City, becoming, at 28, the youngest director of Hambros bank. He turned around an ailing bank, Vavasseur, before the age of 30, and went on to build it up into the MAI media company .

The two men's politics are as different as their characters. Mr Green is a Conservative-supporting entrepreneur in the buccaneer businessman tradition, while Lord Hollick joined the Labour Party at the age of 15 and was instrumental in setting up the left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank.

When Neil Kinnock rewarded him with a peerage, his choice of title revealed another side to his aspirations. Not for him the rural retreat. Instead he chose to become Lord Hollick of Notting Hill, home of cafes, bars media- folk and assorted Labour luvvies.

"With these two men at the helm, it's hard to imagine a life totally without rows," says a media analyst. "However, it seems they have agreed for Green to be the ideas and vision man, while Hollick will be responsible for hands-on day-to- day detail."

With the merger each man has surrendered a degree of control over his business life. However, the deal is regarded in the television industry as the inevitable next step for two broadcasters wanting to be credible as global players and with big ambitions for the Internet and new media.

It represents what is, in many eyes, the long-overdue of consolidation of ITV companies - held back by government regulation that restricts each ITV company to 25 per cent of market-share revenues. A change of rules is required for that consolidation to go ahead but, says the analyst, "it seems to have a fair wind".

The merger, say observers, may bring some quick resolutions for ITV's problems - most specifically in easing the problematic relationship between ONdigital, the digital terrestrial service owned by Carlton and Granada, and ITV. While ONdigital has wanted to air viewer-grabbing programmes such as Prime Suspect and the last Morse, United, an ITV company without a digital interest, has put up barriers. That sort of difficulty should subside.

But the most obvious tension to arise out of the merger is with Granada - the third big ITV player and co-owner of ONdigital.

Granada has its own consolidation ambitions and Mr Green and Lord Hollick will now be looking to the strategy of a third media tycoon of distinctive character - Granada boss Gerry Robinson.