Five CEO Lighting never saw Airey coming

Said she 'was not in a position to confirm' the news

LONDON -- Perhaps no one was more shocked by Tuesday's news that Dawn Airey had jumped ship at ITV to join RTL-owned Five as chairman and CEO than current Five CEO, Jane Lighting, who only found out after the news had broken in the media.

Lighting, who was at a business engagement in the north of England when ITV announced the news of Airey's departure Tuesday, was forced to send an e-mail to Five staff saying she "was not in a position to confirm" the news.

"By now, you will have read in the press that Dawn Airey is leaving ITV to come and work at Five," she wrote in the e-mail. "I am sorry that I am not in a position to confirm any other details yet, but I hope to be able to do so soon."

About 24 hours after ITV executive chairman Michael Grade confirmed Airey's departure and new appointment at Five in a terse statement, neither Five nor its parent company, RTL, have made any comment either confirming or denying the hire, though they are promising to make a statement "within days."

But behind closed doors, there is fury at the botched manner in the way the hiring has been handled and confusion about how it will play out.

"ITV are clearly very cross at Dawn for bailing out so suddenly and could keep her on gardening leave for anything up to a year," one executive said. "But I can't see Jane hanging around to help when she's clearly been hung out to dry. She's probably talking to lawyers right now."