Burt edges ahead in battle for ITV job

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Sir Peter Burt, the former Bank of Scotland chief executive, is inching ahead of his rival, Tesco chairman John Gardiner, in the race to become the chairman of ITV. The broadcaster is expected to announce the appointment this week.

Shareholders contacted by the Independent on Sunday suggested that Sir Peter was their preferred candidate because of his experience as chief executive in running a large business. They also said that Mr Gardiner's age - he is 68 in June - could count against him. One institutional investor said of his age: "It's not a showstopper, but it's a factor." Mr Burt is 59 years old.

The board meets next week to decide between the two. Sir Brian Pitman, the interim chairman who heads the nominations committee, will consult with major institutional investors on the board's choice before making the announce- ment. Chief executive Charles Allen does not want a repeat of last week's Sainsbury's fiasco, when angry shareholders rejected the appointment of Sir Ian Prosser as the supermarket's new chairman. ITV shareholders said they expected to be consulted.

They will look to the new non-executive chairman, who is expected to work a three-day week initially, to bring some much-needed stability to the broadcaster. They rejected the original choice of the Carlton chief executive Michael Green, who shouldered the blame for the ITV Digital fiasco.

Whether Mr Allen can avoid the same fate depends on how quickly he can turn the company round. If he disappoints the market, the new chairman's first job could be to find a new chief executive.

The National Association of Pension Funds used to recommend that companies explain why any director over 70 still served on the board, but scrapped this rule last month.

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