Hunt for new ITV chief executive moves up a gear

ITV yesterday moved a step closer to appointing a chief executive to succeed Michael Grade, as recruitment agency Russell Reynolds began drawing up a shortlist of candidates.<br /><br />With shareholders becoming impatient to appoint a leader to take the struggling commercial broadcaster forward, former BSkyB boss and current chairman of German media group Kable Deutchland Tony Ball remains the frontrunner for the role.<br /><br />&ldquo;He comes with a very strong reputation, having successfully run a real business of scale,&rdquo; said Numis media analyst Paul Richards.<br /><br />Other names tipped to be involved in the selection process include ex-Virgin Media boss Malcolm Wall, BBC Worldwide&rsquo;s John Smith, Channel 4&rsquo;s former chief executive Michael Jackson and Lord Carter, the communications minister.<br /><br />Internal candidates include ITV&rsquo;s chief operating officer John Cresswell, director of television Peter Fincham and Rupert Howell, the network&rsquo;s managing director of brand and commercial operations.<br /><br />Whichever candidate makes the grade, analysts agree his first task will be to launch a rights issue to shore up the debt-ridden broadcaster&rsquo;s balance sheet. The firm has said the creation of a pay-TV model is a possibility.<br /><br />But shareholders have given a mixed reaction to Ball&rsquo;s vow to launch a rights issue should he take the job.<br /><br />&ldquo;Shareholders will want ITV to make an announcement within months,&rdquo; added Richards. &ldquo;Realistically, it is likely to be late summer to early autumn.&rdquo;<br /><br />