BBC Hires Ex-Disney Director to Chair Commercial Board

26 August 2005

The BBC's commercial board has a new one-day-a-week chairman to oversee its £1.15 billion ($2.07bn; €1.69bn) a year activities.

South African-born Etienne de Villiers (56), will take the helm of BBC Commercial Holdings Limited on September 1, replacing John Smith. The latter continues to serve on the BBCCH board and as the BBC's chief operating officer, responsible for all commercial business.

Its big business by any criterion, with 2004 revenues exceeding £1bn and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of £93.5m.

De Villiers knows his European media onions. From 1986 to 2000 he reigned as president of Walt Disney Television International, in charge of all television distribution, production and broadcasting beyond US shores.

He also served as a non-executive director of Carlton Television prior to its merger with ITV, and in 2004 incurred the wrath of institutional investors for his role in rubberstamping a bitterly contested £15m payoff to ousted Carlton chairman, Michael Green.

Says de Villiers: "I am a huge supporter of the corporation and believe that a strong independent BBC with a meaningful branded presence around the world brings enormous value to Britain, as well as to the licence fee payer."

Joining in a duet of mutual admiration BBC director-general Mark Thompson, to whom de Villiers will report, eulogised the new chairman's "outstanding reputation in the international media business".

The appointment of such an archetypal capitalist (de Villiers is also a founder and senior partner of London private equity firm Englefield Capital) is seen as a tradeoff with the Blair administration - part of a wider deal to secure the renewal in 2007 of the BBC's royal charter (the structure under which it operates).

For further financial and trading information on BBC Commercial Holdings click here.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff