Former BBC finance chief to take charge at reprieved Worldwide

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The Independent Online

The BBC is expected to announce soon that its operating officer and former finance director, John Smith, is the new chief executive of the corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

The BBC is expected to announce soon that its operating officer and former finance director, John Smith, is the new chief executive of the corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

An announcement confirming the appointment of Mr Smith - who has been acting chief executive of Worldwide since last summer - could be made as early as the end of the month.

It comes as the structure of Worldwide, which exploits the BBC brand by selling magazines, merchandise and content abroad, is being overhauled. The BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, scrapped plans to sell the division at the end of last year after an internal review of the corporation's commercial operations. Instead, he wanted it to double profits in the next two years.

Worldwide now plans to introduce a new remuneration scheme for executives and senior staff to help it achieve its profit target. Until now, the division had been told to focus on maximising cashflow to the corporation via its own activities and joint ventures. The new scheme will reward management for hitting profit targets.

As part of the commercial review, the BBC is also selling BBC Broadcast, the "play-out" business that runs the broadcast transmissions. Friday was the deadline for initial expressions of interest for the business, which could fetch £100m.

Private equity groups Carlyle Group and Macquarie, as well as media groups Liberty Media and Thomson are among those to lodge expressions of interest. The second round of bidding will take place in mid April, when selected bidders will receive information on the business.

BBC chairman Michael Grade and Mr Thompson also will appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee this week to discuss the Government's Green Paper on the future of the BBC. They are expected to rebut the paper's claim that magazine publishing - which sits within Worldwide - does not represent value for money.

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