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LONDON – The BBC is remaining tight-lipped over the future of the long-serving BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith with the public broadcaster’s money-making commercial arm despite media speculation that his departure is on the cards.
A BBC spokesperson told THR that speculation surrounding Smith and the management at BBC Worldwide first emerged during the recruitment process of the BBC’s director general, a post George Entwistle secured.
Entwistle is widely reported to have set out a plan to bring BBC Worldwide closer to its public service broadcasting company at the license fee-funded corporation as part of his pitch for the role.
According to a report in The Guardian, Entwistle’s plan includes replacing Smith with a BBC executive.
“This continues to be nothing more than speculation,” said a spokesperson for the BBC. “George has expressed his firm commitment to BBC Worldwide and has not announced any changes to its management structure.”
The speculation is hotting up once again as Entwistle begins in his role as director general.
According to The Guardian, Smith’s exit would be expensive for the Corporation, with a £1 million ($1.6 million) pay off and a pension in the region of £4 million ($6.4 million).
According to a BBC Worldwide annual report published earlier this year, Smith picked up £898,000 ($1.4 million) in total remuneration in the year to the end of March, including a £107,000 ($173,000) bonus and cash from a profit share plan and deferred bonus matching scheme.
The BBC has been in the headlines recently for its pay structures for talent behind and in front of the camera as well as its high-flying executives.
The BBC has been embarking on a plan to shrink executive pay to help reduce costs and streamline the organization but a big pay off to an outgoing executive would likely make headlines in the British media.
Entwistle’s annual salary is £450,000 ($729,600), compared with £617,000 ($1 million) on its books paid out to Mark Thompson in his final year.
But BBC Worldwide executives have been separate from any pay reductions at the broadcaster, as it has been argued BBC Worldwide executive pay is linked to the commercial success of the business and is not funded by the license fee.
Smith took up the reins of BBC Worldwide executive in 2004 following the departure of Rupert Gavin.
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