Michael Green was forced to abandon his plans to head a newly merged Carlton and Granada television company yesterday after an unprecedented campaign in the top echelons of British life to dislodge him.
Shareholders determined to prevent the Carlton chairman heading the new company consulted widely in the City, the media and political circles before unseating him. Minutes after the shareholders' noon deadline for Mr Green to step down, he conceded that he could not become chairman of a single ITV company, created by the £4.5bn merger.
Fidelity, one of the world's biggest investment groups, and its senior fund manager, Anthony Bolton, who is known as the "quiet assassin" in the City, spearheaded the lobbying. Mr Bolton declined to name those consulted before shareholders initiated the push to oust Mr Green. But other sources said shareholders "sounded out" government figures before deciding that Mr Green must go.
Westminster insiders said the Government was deeply unhappy with ITV after the collapse of ITV Digital last year jeopardised Labour plans to convert the nation to digital television. Ministers and their advisers became convinced that a change of management at ITV would be "a good thing".
The Government had also become concerned about the inability of ITV to compete effectively with the BBC and with Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.
Carlton's non-executive directors, the usual channel used by shareholders to effect change at companies, fought the shareholders' demands strongly. Carlton said yesterday that Mr Green would remain in place until the company completed its merger with Granada, expected by early next year. But Granada demanded that Mr Green should go immediately.
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