Granada disputes Elstein's £100m saving in ITV merger

LONDON - Granada has disputed a cost-savings figure of £100m suggested by David Elstein, the former Five chief executive who is considering a plan to take over the merged ITV.

Elstein has reportedly drawn up a plan that would include as many as 200 redundancies, and save the ITV companies Granada and Carlton Communications as much as £100m after the £4bn merger.

However, the Times reports that Charles Allen, chairman of Granada, disputes the figure.

"We have taken our shareholders through our plan in detail and they are very supportive. Frankly, they now just want us to get on and do it," Allen said.

Granada has said that it can save as much as £55m in the merger with Carlton if the two are allowed to keep their sales houses, but only £35m if the government rules that they must demerge them.

It is now awaiting a decision by trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt on a Competition Commission report. It is thought likely that the merger of the two companies will be given the go-ahead, with some kind of compromise on the issue of the advertising sales houses being divested to promote competition.

Elstein is the subject of much speculation after the Dundee media consultancy Enders Analysis reported earlier this month that he has a strategy for taking over ITV once Carton and Granada merge.

It has been reported that he plans to install a new management team, cut 200 jobs and sell off the airtime sales houses. Nick Milligan, deputy chief executive of Five, and Malcolm Wall, chief operating officer of United Business Media, have also been linked to the bid.

His plan has already been slammed by ITV joint managing directors Clive Jones and Mick Desmond.

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