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November 10, 2006 10:03 pm

Heavyweights take up positions for the fight

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Sir Richard Branson

The founder of Virgin has always harboured ambitions to lead a television group, and in the past held a stake in British Satellite Broadcasting and made failed attempts for an ITV franchise and Channel 5.

Virgin is said to have examined ITV before the Virgin Mobile deal with NTL.

Ever since NTL approached its largest shareholder with the deal, the cable group has received his enthusiastic support.

Jim Mooney

The sturdy chairman of NTL has already been behind two big deals – driving through the merger with Telewest and the acquisition of Virgin Mobile.

He believes adding programmes across the four platforms will add value to NTL’s services.

However, with the move to take over ITV, he runs the risk of looking like a “deal junkie” going from one acquisition to another in search for growth rather than waiting to integrate the already enlarged group.

Malcolm Wall

The head of television content at NTL’s Flextech and a former ITV executive, Mr Wall is said to have been working on a takeover bid for ITV for the past six months.

He is understood to have been canvassed both for the chief executive job at ITV, and to lead a private equity bid for the broadcaster.

A television man through and through, he was chief operating officer at United Business Media under Lord Hollick where he was responsible for managing the company’s business publishing, news distribution and market research businesses.

As well as being on the board of Channel Five, he has held various senior management positions at ITV franchisees including Granada Television, Anglia Television and Southern Television.

Stephen Carter

The former head of Ofcom was understood to be the front-runner for the ITV chief executive’s job.

While ITV claims that the search process is ongoing, the bid from NTL may make the process redundant. Any candidate would be dissuaded by the prospect of a short tenure. But Mr Carter’s gardening leave imposed by Ofcom lasts until the end of February, so arguably he has plenty of time to wait and see.

He is also said to be looking at several other options both inside and outside the UK.

Sir Peter Burt

The aloof chairman of ITV will need to show strong leadership in the face of the bid approach from NTL.

He turned down a bid seven months ago, but after taking the flak for the drawn-out chief executive search process, where he was seen to be backing Mike Clasper, former chief executive of BAA and an ITV non-executive, he will be acutely aware of his duty to shareholders.

He has been distant from the UK television scene, and there have been rumblings that he wanted to retire from the chairmanship role, although he has pledged to stay on until a new chief executive of ITV is found.

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