Michael Green loses battle to become ITV chairman

LONDON - Michael Green has lost his battle to be the chairman of the merged ITV, with Carlton Communications conceding to the requests of shareholders that he should stand down.

The company released a statement following a meeting this morning saying that it accepted a request that a non-executive chairman be appointed from outside Carlton and Granada. However, it said that Green would remain committed to the completion of the merger and intended to play a "full and active role" in this process.

"The board of Carlton announces that it will be giving an undertaking to Fidelity and other shareholders, accepting their request that an independent non-executive chairman from outside Carlton and Granada should be appointed chairman designate of ITV plc, to take on that role on the completion of the merger expected early in 2004.

"Michael Green as chairman, together with the board of Carlton, remain committed to the completion of the merger and intend to play a full

and active role in this process," Carlton said.

The man being tipped to take over as chairman in the interim is Sir Brian Pitman, who is best known for transforming TSB Lloyds. He is a member of the Carlton board.

It is a victory for Fidelity and star fund manager Anthony Bolton, who has acquired moniker the "quiet assassin" and has lead calls from shareholders for Green's resignation.

Shareholders were angry that Green and Granada chairman Charles Allen were taking the top two jobs at a merged ITV after the collapse of ITV Digital, which cost Carlton and Granada £1.2bn. There was also concern that Green and Allen did not get along.

However, Carlton now faces the possibility that the £4.2bn deal is more of a takeover rather than a merger, and that it will lose out to the larger Granada when it comes to imposing a new world order at ITV plc.

It now remains to be seen how Green hopes to impose his will on the merger plans, in full knowledge that Carlton shareholders and the board of Granada do not support him.

Details of the merger still to be hashed out include the appointment of an adjudicator to oversee sales disputes between the unified airtime sales house and advertisers; and how it will impact on ITV franchises in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Personally, the ousting is a huge blow for Green, who was reported to have said over the weekend that he planned to work until he was 80, saying: "I'm not about to retire to the country; I love business. It's in my blood."

He refused to admit his position was untenable even as late as this morning, when Granada stated that it no longer backed him for the role of chairman at ITV plc.

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