Tony Ball tipped for top ITV job

Former BSkyB chief executive was early front-runner

LONDON -- Speculation is mounting that ITV will appoint former BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball as its new chief executive, a move that would almost certainly put into question the role of ITV boss Michael Grade, who said in April that he intended to remain as chairman after giving up the role of chief executive.

Ball had been an early front-runner for the appointment, garnering the support of about 25% of ITV's shareholders and backing for a rights issue to help deal with ITV's burgeoning pension deficit.

But his candidacy has split the ITV board, with Grade and others thought to be backing music retailing boss Simon Fox, chief executive of U.K. music outlet HMV.

Since Fox backed out of the contest, ITV's board has been split on the possibility of hiring Ball, and is running out of time to hire a successor after initially stating that the appointment would be announced in the summer.

ITV declined comment on reports that Ball has already been offered the ITV job, but has yet to work out a financial package and conditions.