Granada's Duff poised to win top ITV sales position

LONDON - Graham Duff, the chief executive of Granada Enterprises, has emerged as frontrunner to lead ITV's sales team following the government's approval of a Carlton and Granada merger.

His rival Martin Bowley has pocketed healthy bonuses during his reign at Carlton Sales, and is not thought to want the job.

The decision to allow Carlton and Granada to form a single ITV will result in a massive wave of redundancies as duplicated jobs at all levels are stripped from the new structure to create a leaner, more efficient competitor to Sky and the BBC.

While only the Carlton chief executive, Michael Green, and the Granada chairman, Charles Allen, have guaranteed positions as the chairman and chief executive of the new ITV plc, observers think with Granada holding the whip-hand Duff is best placed to run a merged sales house.

Given that senior ITV sales jobs are traditionally among the most highly paid in TV, there is likely to be considerable jostling for position between rivals at the two companies for the other top jobs.

It is likely that up to 300 other individuals at Carlton Sales and Granada Enterprises will lose their jobs. These will include people working in sales support departments -- such as research, traffic and IT -- and internal sales operations departments.

The knock-on effect of an ITV merger could lead to hundreds of further redundancies as rival broadcasters consider their own options and look at merging their sales operations with those of their rivals.

This follows the Independent Television Commission's announcement that it was reviewing its rules on how other broadcasters sell their airtime.

With ITV now in control of its own sales house, it becomes a much more attractive target for a US takeover. At the end of December, the Communications Act, which allows non-European Union companies to make a bid for ITV, comes into effect.

Already some American media companies and individuals have expressed their interest. The Israeli-born entrepreneur Haim Saban, who owns Germany's ProSiebenSat1, has said he would contemplate buying ITV if it controlled its own advertising sales.

And Viacom, controlled by Sumner Redstone who is keen to expand his media empire, also looks a likely bidder. Reports suggest that The Hallmark Channel has hired five's former chief executive David Elstein to look at the feasibility of a takeover and to assemble a new potential management team to take over the running of ITV.

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