ITV ends talks with Tony Ball

Search begins anew for U.K. broadcaster CEO

LONDON -- After weeks of brinkmanship played out in the media, ITV has terminated talks with former BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball saying it could not agree on terms to appoint him as chief executive, despite holding a lengthy period of exclusive talks.

Ball is thought to have demanded an incentive package worth as much as £30 million ($42 million) subject to achieving undisclosed performance targets, around £10 million ($16 million) more than ITV was prepared to offer.

The package had attracted ire from some of ITV's shareholders, although others had supported Ball's appointment.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange Friday, ITV said executive chairman Michael Grade -- who combined the roles of chairman and chief executive -- will step down from both roles at the year end, and that his successor as chairman would select the next chief executive.

Citing "substantial differences" with Ball including remuneration and the appointment of ITV's next chairman, the broadcaster said it had not been able to secure a deal.

"The process of negotiation and discussion has highlighted a number substantial differences, including a failure to finally agree contractual arrangements, together with a disagreement over the future chairmanship," ITV said.

"The committee has therefore concluded that it would not be in the best interests of the company to appoint Mr Ball as ITV's chief executive.

ITV shares were down 5% to 45 pence (72 cents) on the news in mid-afternoon, as the focus now shifts to the need for an urgent appointment.

ITV director of television Peter Fincham and BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith are thought to be possible candidates.

ITV has been searching for a replacement for Grade since May, when the executive chairman agreed to stand down after failing to stem the decline in the broadcaster's shareprice. Grade had hoped to remain as chairman when the new chief executive was appointed, but has now said he will step down from both roles at the year end.

ITV, which airs such shows as "X-Factor," and "Coronation Street," has seen advertising revenues down 15% this year, and now faces a period of uncertainty, with both its chairman and chief executive posts empty.
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