At an emergency meeting on Monday night the Granada board withdrew its support for Carlton Communications' Michael Green as chairman of the about-to-be-merged companies.
The moment of truth for Green came as Granada's non-executive (independent) directors headed by deputy chairman Sir George Russell caved in to the demands of a barrage of institutional investors [WAMN: 20-Oct-03] that the chairman of ITV plc should be an independent non-executive.
The money men, led by US-owned Fidelity Investments, have "suggested" their own candidate, John Nelson, a former investment banker at Lazards and Credit Suisse - an appointee media observers believe might be more friendly toward a US takeover of the merged ITV than the idiosyncratically-independent Green.
Granada will make a statement this morning (Tuesday) ahead of the noon deadline set by the dissident investor group. If, as seems likely, the statement serves up Green's head on a plate to the City of London, there is likely to be a severe backlash from the Carlton contingent who had expected Granada's continuing support for his appointment as chairman.
Said Etienne de Villiers, a Carlton non-executive and proposed board member of ITV plc: “You want men from both sides to take the merger forward, so you don’t end up with just a big Granada.”
A compromise proposal by Carlton that Green should switch to the role of deputy chairman after the first year of operations as a combined company, was rejected by his nemesis, Fidelity fund manager Anthony Bolton: "It is very unlikely that Fidelity will support counter-proposals from Carlton suggesting a deputy chairman," he said.
The question now on everyone's lips: will the merger survive a breakdown in relations between the two partners? Answered one media cynic: "You bet it will - with £4.5 billion at stake and Viacom waiting in the wings!"
Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff