ITV Names New Chairman

25 February 2004

In what eventually boiled down to a two-horse race for the chair of newly merged ITV plc, patrician banking beat plebeian grocery by a short nose!

Sir Peter Burt (59), retired chief executive of the UK's number five bank HBOS, was appointed in preference to his rival John Gardiner, the about-to-retire chairman of Britain's largest supermarket chain, Tesco. He will receive £200,000 annually for the part-time post.

Burt's naming as non-executive chairman has put paid to the ongoing speculation over the future of ITV chief executive Charles Allen -- for the time being at least. "I would not have accepted the job if my first task had been to get rid of the chief executive," said Burt. "That would have been absolutely daft."

But in the manner of bank managers the world over, he also spelled out his expectations: Allen should now address himself to the main tasks of integrating the business and reducing costs.

The noble knight knows nothing of television (save as a self-confessed admirer of ITV’s Rugby World Cup coverage), having spent his entire career working for HBOS and its forerunner, the Bank of Scotland. But, of course, his job has little to do with TV; it is concerned primarily with gladhanding Wall Street and the City of London.

Some insiders (understandably anonymous) see his appointment as grim harbinger of things to come. One TV executive declared it "quite extraordinary" that ITV is now to be run by "a banker and an accountant [Allen]."

Burt, however, was unfazed: "I am there to see that the business is run properly and not there to run it myself. I don’t believe in keeping a dog and barking myself."

Meantime, although the dust of succession has now settled, the scene is unchanged. ITV plc remains a prime target for transatlantic takeover.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff