ITV's share price plummeted to new depths on Monday, closing at 86.2p. That’s more than 25p lower than it was before Grade’s appointment was announced last November, which isn’t the kind of statistic that the chairman will be boasting about at this year’s Christmas party (unless that’s already been cancelled).
The big sell-off started last week when ITV said it wanted BSkyB to sell the 17.9% stake it bought last year. Things went from bad to worse yesterday when Morgan Stanley put out a research note saying the stock was actually only worth 83p, sending the share price down even further.
Grade isn't the only one who’ll be sweating. James Murdoch at BSkyB will be also pretty nervous: his company paid 13p a share for its ITV stake last year, so if the Competition Commission now forces it to sell up, it could be sitting on a £300m loss.
It's been a tough first year at the top for Grade. In addition to plunging advertising revenues, he’s also had to deal with the premium-rate phone-in scandal, in which ITV were found guilty of ‘widespread and systematic deception of millions of viewers’. What’s more, an investigation into more than 60 programmes commissioned by Grade from Deloitte discovered ‘serious editorial issues’. None of which did wonders for the ITV brand.
So far Grade has been able to position himself as a new broom. But if the broadcaster doesn’t start showing signs of progress soon, he’ll find himself under increasing pressure.
ITV's hit show ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ got off to a strong start last night, pulling in around 40% of the total audience. But if Grade doesn’t start delivering soon, shareholders might start demanding that he and the board are dipped in a tub full of eels, rather than a succession of B-list celebrities.