ITV chairman backs Allen before board meeting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Itv's new chairman, Sir Peter Burt, was yesterday forced to defend his chief executive, Charles Allen, amid feverish speculation about boardroom splits and shareholder demands for change.

Itv's new chairman, Sir Peter Burt, was yesterday forced to defend his chief executive, Charles Allen, amid feverish speculation about boardroom splits and shareholder demands for change.

Sir Peter put out a statement to the press, saying: "We have an excellent team in Charles Allen and his colleagues, who are performing well and making good progress."

A recent meeting between Sir Peter and Greg Dyke, the former director-general of the BBC, set off rumours that Mr Allen night soon be replaced - possibly with Mr Dyke, who is said to be keen on the ITV job.

Although the meeting was private, details of the event leaked out in the press. But Sir Peter said: "As far as Greg Dyke is concerned, we have not approached him for any role whatsoever in ITV."

Although Sir Peter's statement, which followed media reports that questioned Mr Allen's continuing tenure at ITV, gave fulsome backing to Mr Allen, that did not entirely stop his critics insisting he remained on probation. Industry sources pointed out that Mr Allen would have to lay out a more developed vision for ITV at a special strategy day in July.

The board of ITV comes together for a regular meeting on Monday. Its senior managers will hold a session in July at which Mr Allen is expected to put forward a convincing plan for the medium- and long-term. "Everyone is running around trying to put together a plan," one industry insider said. "Charles has got to come up with a strategy. The way I see it, he has until July to prove he is the right man for the job."

Mr Allen has been widely praised for securing a spectacularly favourable regulatory settlement for the Carlton-Granada merger, to create a single ITV company this year. He has promised higher-than-expected cost savings from the deal of £100m. However, some in the industry and City have questioned whether Mr Allen has articulated a long-term growth strategy, to counter the long-term structural decline at its core ITV1 channel.

A report in The Times newspaper yesterday claimed that Fidelity, the US fund manager that is ITV's biggest shareholder, had become so concerned about future strategy that it was planning to write to Sir Peter to demand that the company adopt growth targets against which Mr Allen's performance and pay can be judged.

ITV reacted furiously to the story, especially given that Fidelity orchestrated the shareholder coup in October that saw ITV's chairman-designate, Michael Green, ousted. Sir Peter said: "I spoke to Fidelity today and they said there was not a shred of truth in the Times' story this morning. They confirmed they have no plans to write to me."

The ITV chairman, who took up his position in March, also gave his full backing to the corporate plan already in place at ITV. A key part of ITV's future strategy will be more digital channels. It will launch a new digital station, ITV3, towards the end of this year. It is also working on a joint venture to produce a children's channel.

Comments