ITV search nears an end

ITV HAS narrowed its search for a new chairman to three candidates, giving hope that the calamitous hunt to replace Michael Grade could be nearing an end.<br /><br />A source close to the commercial broadcaster said yesterday that three candidates remain in the race, though they were unable to confirm the identities of the individuals.<br /><br />Betting website has got broadcasting veteran Sir Christopher Bland as its favourite, with odds of 6/4, closely followed by GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Christopher Gent at 7/4. But last night City financier Bob Wigley &ndash; a former Merrill Lynch banker who now chairs Yell &ndash; emerged as a leading contender. Bland has more media experience &ndash; including his chairmanship of the BBC board of governors and of LWT &ndash; but, at 71, may be too old for the post. Gent may not be media royalty, but analysts suggest his past ability to placate investors and a disparate board will be more effective in pulling ITV out of the doldrums. <br /><br />Also tipped for the role are former Channel 4 and Equitable Life chairman Vanni Treves (4/1), British Airways chairman Martin Broughton (8/1), and Channel Five chief executive Dawn Airey (12/1). Last month, former Reed Elsevier boss Sir Crispin Davis and BMI-founder Sir Michael Bishop ruled themselves out of the running for a role which is increasingly being called a &ldquo;poisoned chalice&rdquo;.<br /><br />The new chairman&rsquo;s first priority will be to resume the search for a CEO?to revive ITV&rsquo;s fortunes. Filling the post of CEO has also been fraught with difficulties, with frontrunner Tony Ball walking away from talks after failing to agree a five-year pay package thought to be worth &pound;25m.