ITV Boss Finally Quits as H1 Profits Rise 12%

09 August 2006

The interminable wait is ended. Following weeks of meticulously orchestrated rumours from within and without the ITV bunker, besieged ceo Charles Allen announced finally his resignation yesterday (Tuesday).

He did so in style, timing the defiant manner of his going to coincide with a 12% rise in profits to £173 million ($330.03m; €257.05m) in the six months to 30 June, up year-on-year from £154m.

Allen, an accountant by training, told the Financial Times: "Part of my job is taking the bullets. But you can only take so many bullets." He will not, however, clear his desk until January - at which time he will have handed over to an [as yet] unannounced successor.

Despite leaving with a year's salary, benefits and bonuses equivalent to last year's £1.85m package, plus a contribution of about £1m to his pension scheme, Allen (49) isn't mulling a pipe and slippers existence.

"I want another chapter. I definitely will not be retiring," he said.

ITV chairman Sir Peter Burt delivered the eulogy customarily accorded even to those who have helmed a holed ship, using as his text for the sermon the "sea-change in the advertising market" since ITV became a single merged entity in January 2004.

Said Sir Peter: "The board felt the time had come. Charles had been [at ITV and Granada for] 15 years and I think Charles himself felt a fresh face could take things forward. After you've been doing the same job for fifteen years, you tend to run out of steam."

Admitted Burt, who is clearly partial to a mixed metaphor: "ITV1 is having a torrid time, but the sun will rise tomorrow." He predicted that the decline in the channel's share of viewers would level out by about 2010 as its digital channels gained share.

ITV finance director John Cresswell will take over as interim chief executive in October to ensure an orderly handover, but will not be a candidate for the permanent position. Headhunters will be appointed later this week and Burt promised to "encourage them to trawl widely".

Few onlookers, however, believe that the trawler will ever leave harbour as potential successors have already been whittled down to a shortlist of well-known names.

Meantime, despite ITV's superficially bullish half-year profit, total net advertising revenues during that period fell 4% while income at its key ITV1 terrestrial station fell 8%.

Operating profits grew 1% to £205m during the period, though that figure was flattered by a number of disposals, most notably Granada Learning.

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