Monday saw the 'official' launch of the newly merged ITV plc as its shares were traded for the first time on the London Stock Exchange.

Buoyed by analysts' positive research notes, the stock rose from £1.41 to end a respectable if not spectacular 5% up on the day's trading at £1.48. This values the combined company at £6 billion ($11bn; €8.77bn).

Chief executive Charles Allen hailed it as a "thrilling" moment. "ITV is now one company; we will compete with others and not with ourselves. We can now focus relentlessly on making, marketing and broadcasting more talked-about and popular television."

"We are already well on the way to deliver the £100m benefit that we promised," said Allen. "We are actually performing better than we have done for ten years and the merger really does give us the opportunity to deliver for viewers, advertisers and shareholders."

But casting a pall over Allen's ra-ra was the image of an empty chair, like that set for Banquo at Macbeth's banquet. The post of ITV chairman remains unfilled after last year's ousting of Michael Green by a cabal of institutional investors, although some believe his ghost may yet appear as lead spectre in a hostile takeover bid.

In the interim, however, gossip around the media parish pump centres on recently deposed BBC director general Greg Dyke -- seen by some analysts and investors as a credible contender for the ITV chair [WAMN: 02-Feb-04].

He is widely credited with the significant ratings lead enjoyed by the BBC over ITV (although others accuse him of 'dumbing down' the state-owned broadcaster). But none would dispute he is a master programmer of populist TV.

Although Dyke has yet to publicly declare an interest in the job, ITV honchos are playing down the likelihood of his candidacy. Charles Allen told BBC Radio 4 on Monday: "The process for selecting a chairman is very well advanced. Sir George Russell and Sir Brian Pitman, our two most senior non-executive directors, are conducting that process."

But, acknowledged Allen, "that may be an opportunity for Greg. However, I think they are looking for a senior business figure who has performed and developed a relationship as an experienced chairman in the City."

Data sourced from: and; additional content by WARC staff