Granada boss Steve Morrison is to quit next month as the broadcaster looks to draw a line under the collapse of ITV Digital, it emerged today.
The group said its chief executive would be leaving the business at the end of September to “pursue other media interests”.
Chairman Charles Allen is to take over day-to-day control of the group amid a wider shake-up of Granada’s management structure.
Sir George Russell, previously chairman of ITN and deputy chairman of Channel 4, will take up a non-executive director post next month.
Granada said Sir George would play a “significant role” in helping the group manage consolidation opportunities thrown up by the Communications Bill.
Mr Morrison, 55, who received an annual salary of £344,000 (€539,000) last year, has agreed a severance package but details of the deal were not disclosed.
Speculation over his future has circled the City ever since merger talks between Granada and Carlton broke down in February.
Rumours intensified after the high-profile collapse of ITV Digital, which forced Granada to report half-year losses of £169 million in May.
The group, which runs seven ITV franchises including Anglia, Meridian and LWT, has also been battling one of the worst advertising slumps for years.
Mr Morrison said today that his 28-year spell with the group was “a very good innings” and he wanted “to turn my hand to something new”.
But media analysts said he was paying the price both for the ITV Digital fiasco and losing market share to the BBC and Channel 5.
Henk Potts, equity strategist at Barclays Private Clients, said there had been renewed pressure from investors for someone to carry the can.
He added: “It’s like being the wife of Henry VIII, you know the chop is coming, it’s just a question of when.”
Mr Morrison’s departure is the second from the group since ITV Digital closed. Stuart Prebble, former head of the pay-TV venture, quit in May.
Paul Richards of Numis Securities said the management changes would likely fuel renewed talk of a tie-up between Granada and Carlton.
“It’s difficult to escape the likelihood that Carlton and Granada will be one company if not today or tomorrow then in a couple of years,” he said.
“Management will have to be rationalised at some given time.”
Under Granada’s new management structure Mick Desmond and Simon Shaps will be chief executive of the group’s broadcasting and content arms respectively.
Both will report directly to Mr Allen along with Henry Staunton, group finance director, and commercial director Graham Parrott.
Mr Allen said the structure “positions Granada well to take advantage of consolidation and other opportunities made possible through new legislation”.
He added Mr Morrison had been one of the “great driving forces” at the group. “All of us at Granada wish him the very best for the future,” he said.
Mr Morrison joined Granada in 1974 from the National Film School, and produced and directed World in Action before becoming head of features.
In 1985 he founded Granada Film and two years later became the director of programmes for Granada Television.
Mr Morrison was appointed chief executive of Granada Media six years ago and then chief executive of Granada plc in February last year.