The favourite to land the top job at ITV is reported to be holding out for more money creating a stand-off that could force the media group to reopen the search for a new chief executive, five months after beginning the process.
Tony Ball, who has already been offered the job of running ITV, is understood to be holding out for a five-year package worth as much as £30m. The company, which broadcasts shows such as The X Factor and which has been squeezed by the precarious state of the advertising market, is thought to have told Mr Ball that his demands are unacceptable – a stance that could see the group withdrawing the offer of the job.
Mr Ball was expected to have been appointed last week, and indeed is still the favourite to land the job, having been offered a five-year deal that could lead to a £20m pay cheque, as well as a basic salary of at least £1m a year, as long as key performance targets are hit. Mr Ball is thought to want to change the terms of the incentive plan and in particular he is pressing for a repricing of share options – backdated to when he was first muted as a candidate, speculation that he says led to the recent spike in ITV's shares. He has also indicated that he is prepared to invest up to £2m of his own money in ITV shares, which have climbed by 145 per cent in the past six months.
A failure to finalise a deal would be an embarrassment for ITV which has made no secret of its attempts to covet Mr Ball during the five-month selection process to replace executive chairman Michael Grade. A number of other potential candidates, including HMV's Simon Fox who was thought to have been ITV's top choice, have already ruled themselves out.
Even if ITV and Mr Ball do resolve their differences and strike a deal, the episode is likely to cast a shadow over Mr Ball's first few months in the job. A number of the group's senior executives are thought to be annoyed at the size of Mr Ball's demands, and with the chief executive job available at Channel 4, a number may consider leaving ITV. Most of ITV's investors are thought to support Mr Ball being installed, but reports over the weekend suggested that the company's biggest backers – including Legal & General, Schroders and Fidelity – are likely to baulk at Mr Ball's demands. ITV declined to comment.