ITV, Spurned by Duncan, Returns With Red Roses

03 November 2006

LONDON: Andrew Duncan, ceo of Channel 4 and one of the shrewdest operators on the UK television scene is, like Greta Garbo, well aware of the allure of the seemingly unattainable.

Having publicly ruled himself out as a candidate for the vacant ceo role at ITV in August, word within the broadcaster's bunker is that emissaries armed with a dozen red roses are staking out Duncan's doorstep.

On Wednesday ITV denied any formal approach to the Channel 4 boss, either by itself or its headhunter Zygos Partnership. But ITV is a many-headed hydra and insiders imply that several informal third party approaches have been made over the past few days.

The next meeting of the ITV board is on Monday, at which Zygos is expected to present a long list of candidates. Odds are that Duncan's name will be among them.

Among those who might like to see Duncan in the ITV driving seat is the so-called "silent assassin", aka Anthony Bolton, London fund manager for Cincinnati-headquartered Fidelity Investments.

Among the many achievements of this substantial shareholder is the ousting of former ITV ceo Charles Allen.

Some observers believe Bolton's actions regarding Allen and all else at ITV are directed to a single end: to fatten-up the company's share price prior to a bid by Viacom or another US media titan. Duncan would be an ideal casting in such a scenario.

He served in various senior marketing roles at Unilever for seventeen years, prior to a three year stint as marketing director of the BBC where he launched the Freeview digital brand. At C4 he is credited with the implementation of a strongly-branded multichannel strategy.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff