David Prosser: ITV takes a gamble with Crozier

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Outlook When ITV picked Archie Norman as its new chairman there were more than a few raised eyebrows, but let's give him an early pat on the back. He has handled the hiring of a new chief executive for the broadcaster with considerably more aplomb than his predecessors. The appointment of Adam Crozier yesterday was kept entirely under wraps – what a contrast to the unseemly public debate in the autumn over whether or not Tony Ball's pay demands were so excessive that a deal was impossible.

Still, this is a brave move. Mr Crozier, who almost made it as a professional footballer in his youth, is now on an unfortunate hat-trick. Twice he has given up on big jobs with his work only half done and a truckload of enemies at his back.

On the one hand, you can see why Mr Crozier is a strong candidate. ITV, stuck in its ways, has yet to get to grips with a multi-channel world, let alone the challenges of digital convergence. Its new chief executive has a record of taking leadership roles at entrenched organisations and battling to modernise them.

At the Football Association, for example, Mr Crozier turned an organisation run by committees of old buffers into a professional outfit capable of holding its own in the cut-throat business of football finance.

Remember too, that it was Mr Crozier who hired Sven Goran Eriksson – you might hold that decision against him on footballing grounds, but credit is due for the radicalism of appointing a foreign England manager and for having the determination to see the appointment through in the face of all that righteous indignation from many of the game's leading lights.

As for the Royal Mail, it might just be the only organisation that surpasses the FA in its need for modernisation. Cometh the hour, cometh the man – the one thing you would say about Mr Crozier's time at the Post Office is that he has not been afraid to take on the old guard and their outdated working practices. And there is some evidence that his leadership had begun to pay dividends: Royal Mail has finally returned to profit over the past 18 months.

Against that, it is clear that Mr Crozier is a man who finds it easy to alienate both colleagues and his staff. And while the moderniser's lot is a difficult one, surely an inability to carry people with you is likely to undermine your chances of success?

At the FA, Mr Crozier was forced to resign when, in the midst of a row with the Premier League, he discovered that he could not rely on the support of the FA's chairman.

That failure to build support has been in even greater evidence at the Royal Mail: he leaves the business after failing to resolve one of the most unpleasant industrial relations disputes of modern times. On joining the organisation, Mr Crozier would have known he was likely to run into trouble with the trades unions. So why on earth did he give them the ammunition of his massive remuneration deal – regularly pocketing seven-figure cheques from Royal Mail hardly left him in a position to lecture the workforce on the need for cost cuts and modernisation.

There are other concerns, too. Has the improvement in Royal Mail's figures come at the expensive of its service? Did Mr Crozier once commit the FA to substantial investments in the redevelopment of Wembley, one of the most troubled building projects of our time?

There was also some criticism yesterday that ITV will now be run by two men with no TV experience. Still, the broadcaster does have, in its director of television, Peter Fincham, one of the most respected figures in the industry. And Mr Crozier's time at Saatchi & Saatchi in the Nineties will have left him with a good feel for the commercial side of broadcasting.

He will certainly need that as ITV strives to play catch-up. But Mr Crozier will need to learn some new skills too, if he is to see this role out. The creative world is full of easily bruised egos – and on his past record, ITV's new boss had lacked the judgement or the nous to win friends and influence people.

Comments