ITV 'look to Peter Fincham for top job'

Monday, September 21 2009,

ITV director of television Peter Fincham has become a viable back-up candidate for the ITV chief executive role should pay talks with Tony Ball break down, reports The Times.

Former Sky chief executive Ball is currently the frontrunner to replace Michael Grade - who is moving into an non-executive role on the board - after previous leading candidate, HMV chief executive Simon Fox, ruled himself out for the role.

An announcement over Ball's appointment was expected last week, but talks over his contract have become complicated, particularly in regards to a five-year incentive scheme which could be worth around 30 million.

For the role, Ball would receive a 1m annual salary in an overall package, which would make him the highest paid media boss in Britain.

However, ITV is thought to be only willing to sanction a maximum 20m payout should Ball vastly increase the value of ITV's shares over the five-year period.

This delay in the process has meant that former controller of BBC One Fincham is now under consideration as a compromise candidate should talks with Ball break down irreparably.

Fincham is not expected to continue with ITV should Ball get the top job, and is even considered a viable candidate for the Channel 4 chief executive position after incumbent Andy Duncan recently announced that he will step down before the end of the year.

A source close to Fincham said: "If Peter is good enough to run Channel 4, might he not be good enough to run Channel 3 [ITV]?"

A new package will be put forward to Ball and his representatives this week by ITV's remuneration committee, but this is believed to be the final offer from the broadcaster.

Should Ball agree to the pay package, then this could also cause friction with the other senior members of the ITV team, especially considering his already fractious relationship with Grade and the ITV board.

However, should talks break down, then Fincham would come under serious consideration for the role, along with a potential fresh move for Fox, who could be tempted by the size of package being discussed with Ball.