Bowley plots MBO of Carlton Sales

The ITV companies Carlton and Granada are proposing to spin off one of their sales houses ahead of their planned merger and the chief executive of Carlton Sales, Martin Bowley, has emerged as the person most likely to lead a management buyout.

It is believed that Carlton and Granada are pushing for there to be one ITV sales point but are prepared to have a second one in order to get the go ahead for the merger from the Independent Television Commission, the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission.

The creation of an independently owned sales house to work alongside an ITV-owned one is designed to circumvent legislation preventing one company from controlling more than 50 per cent of TV revenue. It could also assuage fears that one ITV is too powerful.

Insiders suggest that the ITV-owned sales house would be run by Graham Duff and Simon Pardon, the chief executive and the managing director, respectively, of Granada Enterprises.

Bowley and his managing director, Steve Platt, would form a separate company ostensibly to compete against the ITV-owned house. It would also be free to pitch for other pieces of media sales business.

The uniting of the ITV sales points is one of the most controversial issues surrounding the proposed merger and has led to rumours that the other broadcasters have begun talks on the possibility of combining their sales functions.

But some media agencies are sceptical that the creation of "Chinese Walls" would really work without the two companies communicating with each other.

No-one at ITV would comment on the rumours.

- Perspective, p14; News, p5.