TV executive tackled over double role

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The Independent Online
THE position of Clive Leach at the helm of Yorkshire Tyne-Tees Television is coming under increasing pressure from institutional investors angry at the company's plan to promote him to the dual roles of chairman and chief executive. Shareholders are also annoyed that YTTV has been forced to announce the closure of its advertising operation, Media and Airtime Sales, following problems that have cost an estimated pounds 11m in lost business.

One angry institutional investor said of Mr Leach's planned promotion: 'He is either saying 'it's not my fault', or he is saying 'OK, I messed up, but give me more power and I will not mess up again'.'

Shareholder confidence in Mr Leach has been further undermined by the decision to close the advertising business. YTTV is planning to hand over the contract to sell its airtime to London Weekend Television's Laser advertising team. The LWT deal, which also led to the London company buying a 14 per cent stake in YTTV from W H Smith, was orginally offered to Granada TV, but the Manchester group pulled out because it could not see the arrangement working.

YTTV's share of network advertising revenue fell a full percentage point to just over 11 per cent after a decision to introduce a new way of charging, which alienated some advertisers. YTTV's advertising director, Craig Pearman, will leave in September.

However Mr Leach, who gave the strategy strong backing, has shouldered little of the blame. Instead, he is taking over as chairman from Sir Derek Palmer, who is retiring.

Mr Leach has let it be known that he is grooming the commercial director, Allan Hardy, as his successor as chief executive, but he is believed not to want to give up the role for another three years.

Some institutions feel Mr Leach has shown a lack of sensitivity and corporate responsibility. They already believed that Yorkshire TV paid too much to retain its franchise before merging with Tyne-Tees, and have been unhappy about the departure of Ian Ritchie, the respected managing director of Tyne- Tees.

Advertising agencies have expressed worries about the deal to contract out airtime sales, arguing that LWT's sales team does not have experience in the consumer goods market - the core of YTTV's client base - and that some large clients, such as Procter & Gamble, do not even advertise with LWT. 'There is a huge cultural difference between the two,' said Paul Longhurst of Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Tomorrow, YTTV will learn the outcome of the Independent Television Commission's inquiry into the proposed integration of Tyne-Tees. It is believed the ITC will approve plans that have been toned down from those that led to the resignation of Mr Ritchie. However, it is expected to issue a warning to YTTV that it will be monitoring Tyne-Tees' output and may review its ITV licence if standards are not maintained.

(Photograph omitted)