After announcing the departure of Adam Crozier back in May, ITV has been on the hunt for a big beast to fill his shoes. Those in the frame reportedly included Dixons Carphone CEO Sebastian James and Direct Line Group boss Paul Geddes, but the broadcaster has managed to bag probably the most sought-after exec in UK Plc – easyJet’s Carolyn McCall, who will start her new job in January.
‘This was a really difficult decision for me to make,’ McCall said. ‘I have had an amazing seven years at easyJet, I am so proud of what the airline and its people have achieved in that period. After seven years, the opportunity from ITV felt like the right one to take. It is a fantastic company in a dynamic and stimulating sector.’
Read more: A day in the life of Carolyn McCall
McCall is no stranger to the media game. She spent her career’s formative years at the Guardian Media Group, where she became CEO in 2006, before leaving to take the top job at easyJet in 2010. Dismissed as a ‘media luvvie’ by arch-rival Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, she is widely credited with having turned the budget airline around, expanding its network and hoovering up a decent chunk of the business flyer market.
For the past two years her peers have voted her Most Admired Leader in MT’s Britain’s Most Admired Companies survey. Last year she was offered the top job at high street stalwart Marks & Spencer but turned it down (probably wisely given the continued decline in its imperiled clothes division).
‘In a very impressive field of high calibre candidates, Carolyn stood out for her track record in media, experience of an international operation, clear strategic acumen and strong record of delivering value to shareholders,’ said ITV chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette, who has been leading the search for Crozier’s replacement. ‘I'm delighted we'll be working together at ITV.’
Crozier has left ITV is a very different state to how he found it. Like McCall he is hailed for leading a turnaround, in his case by investing in production to offset reliance on fragile and unstable advertising revenues. McCall joins at a challenging time for the broadcaster, which faces competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon as well as old rivals the BBC and Sky.