ITV CEO to Step Down as Brexit Slowdown Hits TV Advertising

Updated on
  • U.K. broadcaster plans to name a successor “in due course”
  • Crozier built up production assets at ITV through acquisitions

ITV Plc Chief Executive Officer Adam Crozier is stepping down after seven years, as the U.K. broadcaster shakes up its executive ranks amid a Brexit-derived advertising slowdown.

Crozier will leave on June 30 and a successor will be announced “in due course,” ITV said in a statement Wednesday. Finance Director Ian Griffiths will take on the added role of chief operating officer, and Chairman Peter Bazalgette will be executive chairman during the search.

Adam Crozier

Photographer: Denis Doyle/Bloomberg

ITV, known for the soap opera “Coronation Street,” made a string of acquisitions under Crozier including “The Voice” maker Talpa Media, diversifying the company to make it less dependent on advertising. A bid to buy “Peppa Pig” producer Entertainment One Ltd. ended without a deal last year.

Advertising still makes up more than half of sales, and the company blamed a downcast outlook in March on economic uncertainty surrounding the U.K.’s pending negotiations to leave the European Union.

The company, about 9.9 percent owned by billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc, is a perennial subject of takeover speculation, talk that has intensified since the Brexit vote last June.

The management change presents a prime opportunity for a potential buyer, said Philip Harris, a fund manager at EdenTree Investment Management in London, who holds ITV shares.

“If someone was going to buy it, you’d be surprised if they didn’t do it in the next six months,” Harris said in a phone interview. “It’s at one of those strategic crossroads where an opportunistic bid might be well received by shareholders.”

A takeover is “a definite possibility” following Crozier’s departure, with a joint bid from Liberty and Discovery Communications Inc. potentially on the cards, said Ian Whittaker, a media analyst at Liberum, by phone.

ITV fell 0.9 percent to 209.60 pence at 10:25 a.m. in London and is little changed this year. The shares have almost quadrupled since Crozier became CEO in April 2010.

The departure has been in the works for some time. Sky News reported in December that ITV had hired executive-search firm Spencer Stuart for succession planning.

“It is somewhat surprising that ITV haven’t been able to find a successor yet for Crozier,” Neil Campling, an analyst with Northern Trust Capital Markets, said in a note. “They’ve had five to six months.”

Campling said traditional broadcasters are under pressure from online networks like Netflix and he remains skeptical ITV will be acquired.

For Bloomberg Intelligence primer on ITV, click here

Bazalgette said Crozier, 53, had talked to him and the board about his plans “for some time.” Crozier said in the statement he intends to build “a portfolio of roles” across the corporate world and private sectors.

“He has made a fantastic contribution to ITV and the board is deeply indebted to him for his strong leadership,” Bazalgette said in the statement. “Under Adam, external revenues have grown by over a billion pounds.”

In February, the Telegraph reported Bazalgette was under pressure from shareholders who sought to make Crozier’s pay more reliant on the profit generation of the TV production investments he’d engineered.

— With assistance by David Hellier

(Updates with comments from shareholder, analyst starting in sixth paragraph.)
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