Britain's two foremost television executives have been hired by the entrepreneur behind Power Rangers to sit on the supervisory board of Germany's biggest TV company, in one of the most intriguing boardroom shuffles of the year.
The emergence of Greg Dyke, the former BBC director general, and Tony Ball, the former chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, on the board of ProSiebenSat.1 Media is all the more intriguing because the two men were locked in a bitter row last year over satellite carriage charges.
However, the pair seem to have buried the hatchet and will now offer advice to ProSiebenSat, controlled by Haim Saban, the media mogul who made a fortune from the Power Rangers animated TV show.
Mr Dyke said last night he was, as yet, unsure as to the exact nature of his role at the company, adding that he did not even know how much he would be paid. The main attraction for agreeing, he said, was to learn more about German television as well as offering the company advice.
"I got a call from Haim asking me if I would do it. I've always been interested in German television. It's interesting that Haim Saban was able to come over from the US and buy ProSiebenSat while no one from Britain tried it. I was at the BBC so couldn't do it anyway. But I just don't think the Brits understand German television."
Mr Saban has also been strongly linked in the past with a possible bid for ITV, backed by private equity partners.
However, Mr Dyke dismissed the idea that Mr Saban was interested in mounting a bid for ITV or that the entrepreneur had hired himself or Mr Ball to advise him on such a move.
Despite Mr Dyke and Mr Ball's very public argument last year about the terms that BSkyB charged the BBC to carry its programmes, there was no animosity between the two, Mr Dyke said.
"Tony and I have always got on. We've had a few ups and downs in business terms but nothing personal. If you start letting it get personal you may as well call it a day," he said.
Some observers were, however, surprised that Mr Ball had been allowed to join the board of ProSiebenSat after signing a non-compete clause when he left BSkyB last year, to be replaced as chief executive by James Murdoch.
However Mr Ball's agreement stipulated that he could not join a rival UK broadcaster, leaving him free to join European operators.
The appointment of Mr Dyke and Mr Ball is a coup for Mr Saban. Mr Dyke's time at the BBC, which ended with the publication of the Hutton Report earlier this year, is associated with renewed success in the ratings war against ITV and a significant expansion of the corporation's commercial activities.
Mr Ball meanwhile is seen as one of the most able TV executives of his generation, having guided BSkyB through a huge investment in digital technology, returning the company to profit and beating off competition from both ITV Digital and the cable TV companies.Reuse content