Losing your job is not much of a reward for loyalty, or successfully steering
through a major media merger, but that’s exactly what happened to Henry
Staunton, who was ousted as finance director of ITV last week.
Staunton, 57, was part of a cull by chief executive Charles Allen to signal a
‘new period of growth’ for Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster. His
departure, and a senior executive revamp, comes after ITV viewing figures and
share prices did not perform as well as anticipated in the wake of the February
2004 merger between Carlton and Granada.
Staunton, a key ally of Allen’s for over a decade, is one of the main
casualties as the chief executive seeks to placate hostile shareholders.
Allen’s comments last week gave an indication of Staunton’s apparent failings
when he said that the company needed an ‘operational FD who is very hands-on the
business, rather than sitting in head office’.
Allen also made it clear that whoever succeeds Staunton – former Emap FD Gary
Hughes is already being touted – could eventually replace him in the top job.
Staunton, a former FD at Granada Television, will stay on until headhunters
find a replacement. He is expected to receive a hefty golden handshake; his
salary last year topped nearly £1m including a £420,000 bonus and he holds a
lucrative non-executive directorship at Legal & General.
But despite Staunton’s ignominious departure, the fact remains that he helped
steer one of the largest mergers in media history and played a key role in
ensuring Granada and its key executives came out on top after the £5.8bn deal
last year. Despite shareholder hostility, Allen took the top job and Staunton
squeezed out his Carlton counterpart Paul Murray.
He joined Granada in 1993 and worked alongside Allen, who was chief executive
for a large part of that period. He was instrumental in paving the way for the
merger through a series of high-profile acquisitions, including LWT and Forte,
and outflanked Carlton to buy United and Media’s ITV franchises in 2000, which
allowed Granada to grow in market dominance.
He was listed number 41 in Accountancy Age’s top 50 finance movers and
shakers last year, but it’s not been plain sailing since then and it appears
Staunton has outlived his usefulness at the broadcaster.
The first half of 2004 saw viewing figures drop by 5%, which pointed the way
for the rest of the year, with July its worst ever with its viewings share
falling to just 20%. Both Staunton and Allen were reportedly touring analysts
and investors to persuade them of the benefits of the merger last summer,
pledging that ITV was on course to make £100m in annual savings.
But this year’s ratings have already fallen 6% overall, sliding 10% in
January and February, and ITV is struggling to produce growth though advertising
So with Staunton’s departure, Allen, it appears, is attempting to close the
merger chapter and open a new one in ITV’s fortunes.
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