Carlton boss Michael Green’s hopes of surviving a shareholder coup over who runs an enlarged ITV company were dealt a potentially fatal blow today.
Granada, which is the bigger partner in the £4.6bn (€6.6bn) merger with Carlton, told Mr Green that it now wanted a chairman from outside the two groups.
Granada Media plc owns a 45% stake in TV3.
The move follows a campaign by more than a third of shareholders to block the 55-year-old’s appointment as chairman of ITV plc. The investors, led by fund manager Fidelity, have set a deadline of midday today for his departure.
Carlton has still to respond to Granada’s announcement, although it denied reports that Mr Green had already quit the combined group.
Analysts said Mr Green, who helped set up Carlton 20 years ago, was paying the price for the demise of ITV Digital last year and reports of a personality clash with Granada’s chairman Charles Allen, who is due to become chief executive.
Henk Potts, analyst at Barclays Stockbrokers, said the loss of Granada’s support had effectively ended Mr Green’s hopes of becoming chairman.
“It is an absolute disaster for him. The final straw will have been Granada saying they were no longer prepared to back him. It’s also very unusual for institutional investors to be so vocal and so aggressive.”
The decision by the Granada board, made at a meeting last night, goes against an earlier move by Carlton’s directors to stand by Mr Green.
In a statement, Granada said it was important that ITV plc should go forward with the full support of its shareholders.
It added: “Moreover, Granada is concerned that the present uncertainty should be removed as swiftly as possible.”
Today’s announcement comes exactly two weeks after the Department of Trade & Industry backed plans for the creation of an enlarged ITV company.
The emergence of a single commercial broadcaster had been a long-held ambition of Mr Green, who floated Carlton on the stock market with his brother David.
The shareholder revolt was led by Fidelity Investments, which holds the largest stakes in both FTSE 100 Index-listed Granada and Carlton.
Fidelity is thought to want to want John Nelson, the former Lazards and Credit Suisse investment banker, installed as a non-executive chairman.
Carlton Television owns licences for five regions – London, Central, West Country, HTV West and HTV Wales. Its programmes include Inspector Morse and Survivor. The proposed tie-up with Granada would leave the new company with control of all but four of the ITV regions.