Airey pulls off quicker comeback

After her sudden ITV exit, exec plans return to Channel Five in October

In a surprise move, Channel Five chief executive Dawn Airey will rejoin the broadcaster in October.

The earlier-than-expected return surprised Five insiders, who had been planning for a May arrival.

Airey had widely been expected to be held to a year's "gardening leave" by ITV executive chairman Michael Grade, who was reputedly furious at her decision to quit less than 12 months after he hired her at ITV in the high-profile role of head of global production.

Airey, who will return to Five as chairman and CEO, is returning to her programming roots. She was head of programs and then chief executive at Five before moving to British Sky Broadcasting in 2002.

Airey's return will end a period of limbo for the terrestrial network, which has been without a CEO for three months.

Under the terms of Airey's ITV contract, Five staff have not been allowed to contact her while she remains an ITV employee.

Former Five CEO Jane Lighting and her deputy Lisa Opie resigned shortly after the news of Airey's appointment was leaked.

Airey's early return was announced by RTL CEO Gerhard Zeiler on Tuesday as he unveiled the Pan-European broadcaster's financial results. RTL is majority owner of Five. (partialdiff)
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