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ITV appoints Norman as new chairman

By Ben Fenton
ITV is Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster.
ITV is Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Norman was credited with the turnaround of Asda in the 1990s
  • As chairman he will be paid fees of 300,000 British pounds ($500,000) a year
  • Appointment ends seven-month succession process for broadcaster

(FT.com) -- The long-running saga of ITV's search for a chairman finally ended yesterday with the appointment of Archie Norman, the former Tory MP and ex-chief executive of Asda.

Media executives and analysts said Mr Norman, 55, had a daunting agenda in the job, including refreshing ITV's board, selecting a chief executive and considering whether the company should bid for its rival Five.

The appointment brings to an end a highly public seven-month succession process for the broadcaster, as it sought to replace Michael Grade, executive chairman. Mr. Norman's selection was kept secret until the last moment because only three directors -- Sir James Crosby, Mike Clasper and Baroness Prashar -- were involved, according to people with knowledge of the events.

Mr. Norman would be able to guide ITV through a difficult period using his experience of reviving companies, a person close to ITV said. His contacts with the party most likely to form the next government would help in dealing with pressing regulatory issues.

Mr. Norman, who was credited with the turnaround of Asda in the 1990s, was deputy chairman of the Conservative party.

"There are few opportunities that would have tempted me back into the public company arena, but ITV is definitely one of them. It is an irresistible challenge, a great brand, a people business with enormous talent but facing an imperative for change: the challenge of adapting to compete in a fragmented digital media world," he said.

As chairman he will be paid fees of £300,000 ($500,000) a year. He has also been allocated 1.2m shares at current prices and will receive 400,000 of these each year for the next three years.

Mr Norman said he would start the job on January 1. Candidates for the chief executive's job included John Cresswell, chief operating officer, who would become interim chief executive on the same date.

A senior media executive said: "The free-to-air broadcasting sector in the UK desperately needs consolidating. Mr. Norman should be thinking about how that might happen." Channel Four was likely to stay independent, but Five, owned by pan-European broadcaster RTL, was struggling, he said.

Shares in ITV closed 3.1 per cent higher at 53.6p.