Most high-profile business players are used to a bit of flak from the media when things aren’t going well for their businesses.
But Charles Allen, the executive chairman of television giant Granada plc, must feel positively under siege at the moment.
It’s not just the broadsheets who have the CIMA-member in its sights over his role in the ITV Digital quagmire, but the tabloids as well.
The Daily Star at the weekend declared Allen as its ‘Plonker of the Week’ for ‘paying too much for Nationwide games, for not getting ITV Digital right and now not seeming to understand the crisis that football faces’.
Allen, 45, can perhaps draw comfort from the fact that he shares the award with Michael Green, the chairman of Carlton, which, along with Granada, has invested the best part of £1bn into ITV Digital.
Referring to the football clubs whose future is threatened by the collapse of the joint venture, the paper said: ‘If some of the clubs threatened had run their business like this they would have disappeared long ago.’
The Star is far from alone in its criticism. Granada and Carlton have been widely slated over their investment, and for the way they managed, or according to critics, failed to manage it properly.
But Allen’s defenders point to the massive and unforeseen drop in advertising revenues over the last six months. They also point out that he was a major force behind Granada’s expansion into the biggest ITV company.
Perhaps his greatest crime, in the eyes of the public, is to be associated with a failure that affects the twin passions of the nation: football and television. Allen, like Green, now faces the challenge of explaining the saga to his company’s shareholders and questions over his leadership of the company.
ITV Digital is not the only connection Allen has with his fellow ‘Plonker of the Week’. Granada and Carlton have long been suitors. Their latest round of merger talks were called off in February. Allen, whose hobbies are listed as boating, horse riding and swimming, was to have become chief executive.
Observers say a merger is very much on the cards, especially given the government’s plan to loosen rules restricting ownership of ITV companies.
In fact, despite the odd legal challenge or two from disgruntled football clubs, in strictly business terms, Granada may well be relieved that it has put the ITV Digital debacle behind it, and the City may be too.
Allen, known as a pragmatist and for his direct approach, will be no doubt be hoping investors will focus on his long-term track record and the future, rather than demanding blood for the problems of the present.
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