ITV ended its tortuous search for a chief executive yesterday with the surprise appointment of Adam Crozier, the man best known for appointing Sven-Goran Eriksson England football manager, and currently the head of Royal Mail.
Archie Norman, who started as ITV's chairman at the beginning of the month, unveiled Crozier, saying he was "exactly right to lead the transformation" of ITV despite his lack of broadcasting experience.
ITV searched worldwide for a replacement after Michael Grade announced he wanted to step down last April, Mr Norman said, and had looked at "a lot of different people".
Yet Mr Crozier, currently group chief executive of Royal Mail and overseeing talks with the unions to avoid further strikes, was his first choice. After taking 15 references, and looking "extensively" at his background and track record, Mr Norman got his man. "He was by far the best candidate," he said.
He expects the Scot to bring strength as a leader. He said the former ad man, who became joint chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi in 1995, had a "quiet personality with a steely resolve", adding: "The more time you spend with Adam, the more impressive he is."
Crozier's notice period at Royal Mail, which he joined in 2003 with a brief to carry out the "biggest corporate turnaround programme in the UK", is yet to be worked out.
Donald Brydon, Royal Mail chairman, praised the outgoing Mr Crozier yesterday, saying: "Adam has done and continues to do a remarkable job in leading Royal Mail through a major transformation in extremely difficult market circumstances."
The group hailed his performance as turning a loss-making business into a profitable one. His tenure was marked by cost cutting, which included shedding 60,000 staff. The strategy caused controversy when he was awarded £3m in pay and a bonus for 2007 despite losses. Union insiders also pointed out that after a decade without a strike, staff took industrial action twice under his leadership.
Yet many backed him. Rival mail boss Guy Buswell, of UK Mail, called him "a great guy": "If you look at Royal Mail, you can't say Crozier has not done a reasonable job."
Mr Norman said: "The story of Royal Mail is the story of unsung heroes. Adam has led it from losing £1m a day to making £1m a day."
Mr Crozier is best known for his time at the Football Association. There were expressions of shock in 2000, when he was appointed to head the body at the age of just 35.
He set about modernising the FA, and oversaw the appointment of Eriksson as England manager, as well as the plans for the new Wembley. While he tried to revolutionise English football, tension grew with the domestic clubs, and he left just two years after his appointment.
A senior media sector banker said: "The view is that he is a lucky devil, slipping from one slightly mixed bag to another. ITV is back to a cabaret act with Archie and Adam, but neither have media experience – when you'd think ITV would have played it straight with a media person."
Mr Norman said: "We've already got a disproportionate number of star broadcasters. We need someone who will bring this company together and drive it forward. I wanted someone who will work well with the team, bring it together and drive it forward," he said, adding that the existing senior managers at ITV all backed the appointment.
This followed a search that almost saw the appointment of Tony Ball, a former chief executive of Sky, to the role, but the agreement fell apart. The company blamed Mr Ball's pay demands. Mr Norman said Mr Crozier's pay would not be in the same league – Mr Ball was reportedly looking at a £42m package – but would be "normal for a role of this scale and challenge" and said Mr Crozier would have been first choice "if I had been chairman a year ago".