Talkback Thames' Heggessey quits

Shocking move prompts speculation about future of co.

LONDON -- In a shock move that has prompted speculation about the future of the RTL-owned indie production company Talkback Thames, its chief executive Lorraine Heggessey quit Tuesday.

Talkback declined comment beyond saying that chief operating officer Sarah Geater will take over the CEO position on an interim basis, reporting to Fremantle Media chief executive Tony Cohen.

Heggessey, a highly respected former controller of BBC1 who has been chief executive of Talkback Thames for five years, had been thought of as a possible candidate to take over either Channel 4 or ITV when their CEO positions became available last year.

Although she did not surface among the final candidates, she remains highly thought of, having overseen such blockbuster shows as "The Apprentice," "The X Factor," and Britain's Got Talent," as well as dramas including "Gideon's Daughter." Last year ITV cancelled Talkback's longest-running show, the police procedural drama "The Bill."

At BBC1 she brought back "Doctor Who" and launched "Strictly Come Dancing," the U.K. original that spawned the "Dancing With The Stars" format.

Heggessey's decision to leave could suggest that there are moves to merge Talkback Thames into a possible deal with ITV Productions, which could leave Heggessey working for new ITV head of production Kevin Lygo.

Such a move could have prompted her decision to quit, some have speculated.

RTL has yet to scope out any of its plans for Five, but is understood to be fielding interest from groups including ITV, Endemol and BSkyB.
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