Ex-ITV Boss Emulates Arnie

11 September 2008

LONDON: Echoing Arnie's immortal line "I'll be back", ITV's ousted former ceo Charles Allen could be set to do just that as he settles into his third TV-related new job within a week.

Some observers see Allen's triple boardroom appointments – initially at Goldman Sachs and production giant Endemol (in which Italian media giant Mediaset has a significant interest), then his appointment Wednesday to the board of US-owned Virgin Media – as heralding a bid for ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster. 
Rune-readers believe these Brobdingnagian commercial interests may well be about to converge on the ailing TV giant.

Observes Numis Securities analyst Paul Richards: "Charles Allen's arrival at Endemol and Virgin Media is inevitably going to fuel speculation of a break-up. Particularly as Mediaset have done nothing to quell rumours of their interest." 

Rather more than just "rumours", it seems. Mediaset director Gina Nieri last week admitted that she is "looking at a bunch of dossiers, including ITV".

Meantime, in archetypal moneyman mode, analyst Richards is hedging his bets, pointing out that high levels of debt at Endemol and Virgin Media, coupled with ITV's massive pension liabilities, make a three-way deal unlikely.

"If you've got two geared entities looking at a break-up bid it would be a challenge," he said.

Fait vos jeux, Mesdames et Messieurs, fait vos jeux!

Data sourced from Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff