Tony Ball, one of the favourites to take over from Michael Grade as chief executive of ITV, has joined the board of BT. The telecoms giant surprised the market yesterday by announcing the appointment of Mr Ball as a non-executive director, starting next month.
Some questioned whether the move to join BT, which has a pay-TV business, would rule him out of the ITV job if offered. Paul Howard, the managing director of European telecoms and media research at JP Morgan Cazenove, said in a note that the move "may be seen as reducing the likelihood of Mr Ball becoming the next chief executive of ITV in the near term".
One industry source said the question was hypothetical at this stage as the firm of headhunters Russell Reynolds is still drawing up a list of potential candidates, but added: "I don't think it would be a huge problem if he wanted to join ITV."
A BT spokesman said: "We are not going to speculate on the matter. We would review such a move at the time."
The appointment is welcome news for the group as it seeks to shore up its TV arm, BT Vision, a week after the division's head, Dan Marks, quit.
Mr Ball is currently chairman of Kabel Deutschland, which operates the largest cable television network in Germany. He championed the growth of Sky's digital service in his time as chief executive between 1999 and 2003. The company doubled the number of subscribers during his time at the helm.
BT's chairman, Sir Michael Rake, said: "Tony has an outstanding track record of innovation and delivery in the communications industry."
Mr Ball, who started his career as a broadcasting engineer at Thames Television, is also a board member of the Olympic Delivery Authority for the 2012 London Olympic Games and a trustee of Media Trust.