Clasper sounded out over top job at ITV

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The Independent Online

Mike Clasper, the former chief executive of the airports group BAA, has been approached by the chairman of ITV about replacing Charles Allen as chief executive.

Mr Clasper is a non-executive director of ITV and had been seen as something of an outside contender for the position until now, as he has no broadcasting experience. However, the news that he has held discussions with the company's chairman, Sir Peter Burt, means he is being taken as a serious candidate.

It is understood that although Mr Clasper is keen on the job there is no certainty he would take it. In recent days he has been interviewed for another big job, though that was not with a plc. Mr Clasper, who could not be contacted yesterday, has been looking for a full-time job since he left BAA when it was taken over by the Spanish group Ferrovialthis year. He has been on the ITV board since January.

Mr Clasper, 53, has marketing experience with one of ITV's most important advertisers, Procter & Gamble, where he worked before BAA. One of ITV's problems is the tense relationship with its customers - the advertisers - and Mr Clasper's experience could be valuable.

Fairy Liquid is among the brands that Mr Clasper looked after during a long career at Procter & Gamble. He left the consumer products giant in 2001, when he was president of the global home care division, for BAA, where he was initially deputy chief executive and then chief executive from 2003.

Mr Clasper's chairman at BAA was Marcus Agius, who runs Lazard, the investment bank that is ITV's main financial adviser. Lazard helped ITV fend off a bid approach this year from a private-equity consortium fronted by Greg Dyke, the former BBC director-general.

ITV has hired the headhunters Zygos to help find a replacement for Mr Allen, who steps down at ITV at the end of this month. It is understood there is no short-list and an appointment may not come for many weeks. ITV and Zygos declined to comment.

A number of obvious candidates have ruled themselves out or let it be known that they are not interested: Andy Duncan, chief executive of Channel 4; Tony Ball, the former chief executive of BSkyB; and Michael Jackson, a former chief executive of Channel 4.

That leaves the field of candidates with television experience led by Mr Dyke, Dawn Airey, director of programming at Sky, and Stephen Carter, the former chief executive of the regulator Ofcom who was previously at the cable group NTL. None has publicly said he or she is even interested in the job, though it is assumed all would consider it.

Roger Parry, chairman of the regional newspaper group Johnston Press, is one of the few media executives to declare an interest.