Tony Ball seen as likely to take reins of ITV

Ex-BSkyB CEO is seeking the support of shareholders

LONDON -- Former BSkyB CEO Tony Ball is shaping up as the most likely candidate to take over for ITV executive chairman Michael Grade, but is thought likely to take the job only if he can persuade shareholders to back a rights issue to pay down some of ITV's £720 million debt burden.

Ball has reportedly held meetings directly with ITV shareholders and has earned the support of about 25% of the institutions holding ITV shares.

But the price of a rights issue that would likely see TV's share price diluted -- plus a generous incentive package for Ball -- may yet be too big a pill for shareholders to swallow.

The former chief executive of BSkyB left the satcaster in 2003 and is chairman of German cable group KDG.

"Ball's pay TV expertise could be attractive given our belief that ITV should consider a subscription model," UBS analyst Daniel Kerven said. "However, some investors question Ball's record at Sky given the additional investment that was required to revitalize growth post his departure."

Other potential candidates for the ITV job include Google Europe head Nikesh Akora and Mike Volpi, chief executive of online video operator Joost.

Executive chair Michael Grade said he will step back from day-to-day running of the organization by year's end.