THE CHARISMATIC chief executive of Channel Five is widely expected to quit the firm following its purchase by Express owner Richard Desmond.
Dawn Airey is expected to take a senior role at former Five owner RTL after helping it dispose of the loss-making broadcaster.
It is understood she will remain at Five for several months to oversee the transition.
The shock move is understood to be the first step in a radical shake-up of the board of the embattled terrestrial channel.
Job cuts are expected throughout the organisation as Desmond attempts to streamline the broadcaster, which employs 300 people.
The Express owner, who made his fortune selling adult magazines, bought Five from RTL in a deal worth £103.5m. He has pledged to invest up to £100m a year in new programming as he attempts to arrest the channel’s decline.
A close friend of Airey’s told City A.M. she had privately said she did not expect to last more than six months under Desmond.
Airey has been at Five for 14 years, after leaving the controller of entertainment position at Channel 4.
Claire Enders, analyst with Enders Analysis, said the move is not unexpected. She told City A.M.: “There is almost always a decision to bring in a fresh face. In this case I expect it to be someone from within the Desmond empire rather than a TV person.
“He will already have earmarked the position to a trusted lieutenant.
“There is a good chance this was already decided as part of the sale, especially if Airey does take a role at RTL. I know she has a very strong contract so it will be interesting to see how much she walks away with.”