Archie Norman to chair ITV and start hunt for new CEO

Ex-Tory MP says he has not been hired as a lobbyist for the broadcaster
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The Independent Online

ITV appointed the former Asda chief executive and Tory MP Archie Norman as its new chairman yesterday, ending months of speculation about who would take the job.

The group, which has struggled in the advertising downturn, appears to be no closer to hiring a new chief executive. Its chief operating officer, John Creswell, will act as interim CEO from January when the executive chairman, Michael Grade, steps down.

Mr Norman said: "I have an open mind when it comes to bringing in a new chief executive, but I will take my time and make sure we hire the highest- calibre candidate," he said. "There have been a lot of public shenanigans over the last few months, but I have a record of bringing in and developing top talent. I'm not going to be in a great hurry."

Mr Norman also rejected the accusations that his appointment was linked to his background as the only FTSE 100 chief executive to also sit as an MP in the House of Commons, when he served as the Tory member for Tunbridge Wells between 1997 and 2005. "I don't think I've been hired as a lobbyist. Yes, I've got some very good connections on both sides of the political divide, but I'm not expecting any special favours."

Nonetheless if, as expected, the Conservatives form the next Government, ITV will no doubt view Mr Norman's contact book as a valuable asset. William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, is a former protégé of Mr Norman and appointed him to the shadow Cabinet during his stint as party leader.

The Government has already pledged to give the communications regulator Ofcom the power to fund independent ITV regional news providers, while the Conservatives have pledged to scrap the measure. Mr Norman's appointment follows that of Lord Burns, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury under the Major government, to the chairmanship of Channel 4.

Several high-profile candidates, including Sir Crispin Davis and Sir Michael Bishop, had ruled themselves out of the ITV chairmanship before Mr Norman's appointment yesterday. He will be charged with finding a new chief executive after a series of embarrassing rejections for the broadcaster.

Bookmakers at Paddy Power installed Tony Ball as the favourite yesterday, but sources close to ITV said that it is unlikely that Mr Ball will be approached again after talks with the former Sky boss fell apart in September over his salary demands. Other candidates for the job include ITV's director of television Peter Fincham and the boss of independent production company Talkback Thames, Lorraine Heggessey.

Mr Norman is credited with transforming Asda in the Nineties, before selling the company to the US retail giant Wal-Mart in 1999. Before Asda, he helped to establish Kingfisher, the DIY group, in the Eighties. In 2002 he became chairman of the telecoms group Energis before it was sold to Cable & Wireless for double its original value.

ITV's new boss: The CV

2007: Chairman of the buyout fund Aurigo Management

2003: Senior adviser at Lazard

2000-2005: Chairman of Energis

1997-2005: Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells

1991-99: Chief executive and later chairman of Asda

1986-1991: Finance director at Woolworths, later Kingfisher

1979-86: McKinsey & Co

1979: MBA from Harvard Business School

1975-1977: Citibank

MA from Cambridge University