ITV seeks new headhunters to find a chief executive

ITV has approached new headhunters to replace Russell Reynolds as the troubled television company steps up its search for a new chief executive and chairman to replace its outgoing boss, Michael Grade.

Top headhunters, including Carol Leonard at Inzito Partners, have been asked by ITV advisers whether they would be interested in taking over the search. But several of those asked have turned down the invitation because of the shambolic nature of ITV's recruitment process. One source said: "Russell Reynolds has been through the mill and there are many at ITV who want some fresh thinking on the whole board structure."

After several months of negotiations, ITV decided two weeks ago to terminate talks with Tony Ball, the former BSkyB chief, after he refused to give his "unconditional" support to the proposed chairman, Sir Crispin Davis. Sir Crispin has now withdrawn his interest, as has Sir Michael Bishop, the former BMI chief. Other potential chairman include Sir Martin Broughton, ex-British American Tobacco boss and Sir Christopher Bland, former LWT and BT chief.

ITV's messy search for a chief executive has also prompted leading investors to call for the head of Sir James Crosby, the deputy chairman and former HBOS chief, whom they blame for the collapse of the Ball negotiations. But insiders say Sir James, as the senior independent director, was trying to salvage the situation because the board was split – one camp supporting Mr Ball and another supporting Sir George Russell, the deputy chairman.

Rumours last week that Mr Ball – who offered to invest £2m into ITV and who could have earned at least £20m if certain incentive criteria had been achieved – had been approached again by the broadcaster were denied by a spokesman. But sources close to Mr Ball said that if and when ITV does find itself a new chairman and restructures the board, and if a water-tight contract was drawn up, he may well be persuaded to reconsider. "It would be a real stretch as he feels really badly treated but he could still be interested."

An ITV spokesman was not available to comment on whether headhunters are still being sought.

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