Top ITV job touted two weeks ago

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The Independent Online

Anthony Bolton, the fund manager at Fidelity Investments who blocked Michael Green's appointment as the chairman of the merged ITV, approached investment banker John Nelson to take the role more than two weeks ago.

The approach to the European chairman of CSFB came before Mr Bolton sent his first letter to the directors of Carlton and Granada, the two companies merging to form ITV, opposing Mr Green's elevation to the post of ITV executive chairman. That letter, on 14 October, was followed by another four days later.

Last Tuesday the companies gave way, conceding that the Carlton chairman would not stay on to become chairman of ITV. Mr Bolton proposed Mr Nelson as a candidate to be an independent non-executive but it is understood that the directors of Carlton do not believe he is sufficiently independent.

Before joining CSFB Mr Nelson was at Lazards, where he advised Granada on the acquisitions of both Forte and LWT. Mr Nelson is also understood to no longer be keen to take on the role of ITV chairman after the publicity generated in the last few days.

Sir Christopher Gent, former chief executive of Vodafone, has now emerged as the most likely candidate.

Mr Bolton has indicated that he wants a strong chairman to keep a tight rein on Charles Allen, the Granada executive chairman who will be chief executive of ITV.

It is understood that Mr Bolton, whose fund will be the largest shareholder in the merged ITV, is not entirely happy with the past performance of Mr Allen.

Mr Allen's job will not be safe if ITV does not start to show a sharp improvement in its figures after the merger is completed early next year.

"I don't expect Charles Allen to still be in his job in two years' time," said one senior figure in the media.

Mr Green will stay on as Carlton chairman until the merger is completed. As he has no formal contract he will not be entitled to a pay-off though he has share options worth £4m. It is believed that Carlton directors may award him up to a £1m in severance and bonuses, though this may incur the wrath of institutional investors.

At least one Carlton director who was due to join the ITV board may now have to stay with the merged company. Etienne de Villiers, the chief executive of EuroDisney, is "considering his position".

John McGrath, the chairman of Boots, is thought to have agreed to stay on despite opposing Fidelity's actions in blocking Mr Green's appointment.

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