ITV group Carlton could face the prospect of a shareholder vote to oust chairman Michael Green if he does not agree to go, it emerged today.
David Cumming, of insurer Standard Life, which owns shares in the company, said investors could call a special meeting to force the issue through if Carlton resists calls for his resignation ahead of its planned £4bn (€5.75bn) merger with Granada.
Under plans given conditional British government backing two weeks ago, Carlton and Granada are set to be combined as a single company to be known as ITV plc with Mr Green as chairman and Granada boss Charles Allen as chief executive.
But major shareholders want a fresh pair of hands at the top and institutions holding more than a third of Carlton’s shares are reported to have set a deadline of midday on Tuesday for Mr Green’s resignation.
The company issued a statement last night saying that it would not comply with the request to remove 55-year-old Mr Green, stressing the importance of continuity ahead of the tie-up which is not expected to be completed until January.
But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Cumming, head of UK equities at Standard Life Investments, said that shareholders could simply call a vote to force Mr Green out if the company did not comply.
He said: “I think given 35% of the shares are already signed up in favour of this course of action and I believe it’s over 50% on an unofficial basis, I think Michael Green is going to have to stand down at some stage.
“If they do resist then I think it’s simply a question of requisitioning an extraordinary general meeting to force the proposal through. Hopefully we won’t have to go down this route.”
Mr Cumming said that given past difficulties associated with ITV Digital, which involved the two companies, shareholders wanted to see an independent chairman brought in from outside.
Carlton said last night that it would seek talks with fund manager Fidelity, which led yesterday’s call for Mr Green to go, to “discuss a practical way forward”.
Carlton Television owns licences for five regions – London, Central, West Country, HTV West and HTV Wales. It makes programmes such as Inspector Morse and Survivor.
A tie-up with Granada would leave the new company with control of all but four of the ITV regions.