Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Archie Norman: From DIY to ITV

By Rebecca Marston
Business reporter, BBC News

ITV chairman Archie Norman
Archie Norman's political contacts could prove useful for ITV

Archie Norman, ITV's new chairman, certainly doesn't lack experience at heading high-profile businesses.

He has worked for companies such as Woolworths, DIY chain B&Q and supermarket group Asda.

He also has been involved with the even more every-day business of utilities, serving on the boards of British Rail and the power company Energis.

But perhaps it is his spell as a Conservative Party MP that will prove the most useful in his new job.

Time of change

He joins a company that has had a hard time in recent years. Despite great success with programmes such as Coronation Street and X Factor, Britain's biggest free-to-air commercial broadcaster has struggled with both audiences and, crucially, advertising income.

Some might say he lacks experience as he has never worked in the media, although as a high-profile retailing boss and MP he certainly knows it from the receiving end.

He has an address book thicker than the Encyclopedia Britannica
David Buik, BGC Partners

His main usefulness though is something rarer than hands-on practice, and that is his closeness to the Conservative Party.

His contacts reach far back to the early years of his career when, after gaining an MA from Cambridge University and an MBA from Harvard, he became the youngest partner at the consultants McKinsey and Co. There, he met the young William Hague who later became the Conservative Party leader.

Mr Norman's most obviously pressing task is to end ITV's hunt for a chief executive - a role that has been unfilled for seven months.

But he will also be responsible for lobbying politicians and regulators at a time of immense change for broadcasters when many believe those decision makers will be the very people Archie Norman knows so well.

Wielding the baton

Analysts see many challenges ahead for broadcasters, not least in the field of regulation.

City insider David Buik, senior partner at BGC Partners, says Mr Norman's most important contribution will be made behind the scenes.

"At the end of the day he's the conductor of an orchestra. He has an address book thicker than the Encyclopedia Britannica,"

A relatively young man at 55, he said there were few opportunities that would have tempted him back into the public company arena.

He said the post presented "an irresistible challenge and a great brand". Some would say its his own brand that's being most closely watched at the moment.

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