Director in firing line at SelecTV

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The Independent Online
SELECTV, producer of Lovejoy and Birds of a Feather and loser in last week's Channel 5 bidding, is racked by top-level turmoil. New finance director David Adair is set to depart if current attempts to sell the company prove unsuccessful.

Sources close to the board say mercurial chairman Alan McKeown, husband of actress and comedienne Tracey Ullman, tried to sack Mr Adair at a meeting a month ago. He was overruled by other directors who, while sympathetic to his case, wanted to avert damaging publicity after Mr McKeown had in effect put SelecTV up for sale. "The difficulty between him (Mr Adair) and Alan partly crystallised the decision to sell," said one well-placed source. "It's not a case of Alan against the board, but Alan and the board against David," the source stressed.

SelecTV shares fell 3.75p to 30.75p on Friday, wiping over pounds 5m off its near pounds 50m stock market value, after its UKTV consortium controversially failed to get the C5 franchise despite submitting the highest bid of pounds 36m. The company has been in talks with various suitors - including Pearson and MAI, members of the winning C5 group, and newspaper owner Daily Mail & General Trust - and has further to fall if no bid emerges, analysts say.

Mr Adair, in his early 30s, only arrived in June amid further sweeping management changes at the top. He joined from French-owned film distributor Lumiere, an entirely different business from television production. Mr McKeown's maverick personality has also played a part in the spat, SelecTV sources say. A SelecTV spokeswoman declined to comment on the rift, while Mr Adair did not return calls. Mr McKeown is away in Los Angeles.

Despite protests from the Independent Television Commission, analysts take it as read that SelecTV's uncertain future played a key part in UKTV's C5 bid failure.