ITV’s epic search for new leadership hit a fresh low yesterday after Sir Michael Bishop ruled himself out of the running for chairman.<br /><br />And chief operating officer John Cresswell – who was yesterday appointed interim chief executive – said he would leave as soon as the role was filled permanently, ending ITV’s best chance of appointing an internal candidate. <br /><br />Bishop walked away because he believes that the job of restructuring ITV’s board and placating its conflicting investors would take up too much of his time.<br /><br />Enders analyst Toby Syfret said it would be “extraordinarily difficult” for whoever does take the reins at ITV.<br /><br />“I sense that a lot of what has gone wrong is a feeling of tension between shareholders and the board,” he said. “From the perspective of its shareholders, ITV has certainly lost the X-Factor.”<br /><br />BMI founder and ex-Channel 4 chairman Bishop had been the favourite for the chairmanship after ex-Reed Elsevier chief executive Sir Crispin Davis ruled himself out last week. <br /><br />Bishop’s retreat has dealt a powerful blow to ITV’s succession plans at a time when the struggling broadcaster is crying out for strong leadership to steer it through an advertising downturn and into the digital future. <br /><br />The disastrous process began in April when executive chairman Michael Grade said he would step back from the chief executive role once a replacement was found. <br /><br />And the broadcaster’s woes worsened last month when Grade signalled his intention to leave the board as well.<br /><br />HMV boss Simon Fox was initially tipped as the board’s favourite for chief executive, until he said in August that he intended to stay with the entertainment retailer.<br /><br />And former Sky boss Tony Ball was in advanced negotiations with ITV over the role, but walked away last month when the parties could not agree terms. <br /><br />Ball was said to be demanding a pay package of £30m, but sources close to the ex-Sky boss blamed an ITV ultimatum over their choice of Sir Crispin Davis as chairman. <br /><br />There has been talk that Ball could return to negotiations now that Davis and Bishop have ruled themselves out as possible chairmen. <br /><br />The City was yesterday left to mull over who ITV would approach next for both roles. <br /><br />Stockbroker BGC Partners had ex-Channel 4 chairman Vanni Treves and GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Christopher Gent as its favourites for the chairman job.<br /><br />Despite the setback, ITV shares rose two per cent to 47.33p yesterday after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to “buy”, citing signs of improvement in the advertising market.