Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 12:20 UK

Profile: Michael Grade

Michael Grade
Grade has worked for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4

Michael Grade, who has announced he is stepping down down as chief executive of ITV, is one of the most familiar behind-the-scenes figures in British television.

Boasting ITV founder Lew Grade as an uncle and theatrical agent Leslie Grade as his father, he was perhaps destined for a life behind the small screen.

Known for his red braces and fat cigars, his appointment as executive chairman of ITV in 2006 followed a long line of top TV jobs since the start of his career as a newspaper sports journalist in the 1960s.

Spanning more than four decades, his career has taken him to the BBC, ITV and also Channel 4, where he was famously labelled "the pornographer in chief" after he sanctioned controversial late-night programmes such as The Word, Eurotrash and Dyke TV.

Newspaper start

Born in 1943, Grade began his media career in 1960 as a trainee journalist on the Daily Mirror, where he was a sports columnist from 1964 to 1966.

His father Leslie suffered a stroke when Mr Grade was 23 - an event which has been described as a watershed in his life.

His uncle Bernard Delfont told him: "You've got to get serious, young man - your father's not going to be the power he was and we need you to learn the business."

Lew and Michael Grade
Grade is a nephew of ITV pioneer Lew Grade

He consequently became a theatrical agent with the Grade family organisation in 1966 and moved into TV in 1973 as deputy controller of entertainment programmes at London Weekend Television.

During his time at LWT, he became friendly with one of the ITV firm's senior executives, John Birt - who later became the BBC's director general.

In his autobiography, The Harder Path, Lord Birt said that the young Michael Grade was "modest and honest about his handicaps, quick-thinking and street-smart".

In 1981 he went to Hollywood as President of Embassy Television before moving on to BBC One in 1984, where he enjoyed popularity.

His successes included increasing audiences for such programmes as Panorama and Omnibus by clever scheduling, while Bob Geldof said nobody else would have had "the bottle" to hand over a network for 24 hours to Live Aid in 1985.

But he was not afraid to make tough decisions - like scrapping sci-fi favourite Doctor Who.

'Controversial'

In 1988 he moved on to become chief executive of Channel 4, where his controversial programming led Daily Mail columnist Paul Johnson to dub Grade the "pornographer-in-chief... a 52-year-old who grew not entirely to maturity in the 1960s".

But he put the channel on a sound financial footing and oversaw a growth in its share of viewers.

Mr Grade left Channel 4 in 1997 and later become chief executive of First Leisure, which operated nightclubs, bars and health and fitness clubs.

He stayed there until 1999 before going on to become chairman of the firm running Pinewood and Shepperton film studios. Around this time, Mr Grade's achievements were recognised with a CBE.

Mr Grade moved back towards television in 2003, becoming a non-executive director at Glasgow-based media company SMG, which runs the Scottish and Grampian ITV franchises.

He was also chairman of the lottery operator, Camelot, from 2002 to 2004, and he remains a director of Charlton Athletic football club.

He was made a Fellow of the Royal Television Society in 1991 and a Fellow of Bafta in 1994. He became Vice-President of Bafta in June 2004.

Popular appointment

Also in 2004, he began his second tenure at the BBC in the post of chairman, a position he admitted he had long wanted and had failed to get in 2001 after expressing interest.

Susan Boyle
Susan Boyle is one of the stars of ITV1's hit Britain's Got Talent

His appointment was popular and welcomed by the industry, politicians and the press. Even the Daily Mail, which had been one of his harshest critics during his time at Channel 4, was said to have buried the hatchet.

He went on to promise prime-time viewing hours on BBC One and BBC Two would be "repeat-free zones" within 10 years and vigorously defended the corporation's independence.

In 2006, he left the BBC for ITV, where he was greeted by cheering staff.

He has since presided over one of the worst ever downturns in advertising revenue as well as massive cost cutting.

Despite successes such as Britain's Got Talent and I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, ITV's flagship channel ITV1 has steadily lost market share to rivals such as Sky and other, smaller digital channels.

The 66-year-old says he had always planned to step back from his role as executive chairman to take on his new role as part-time, non-executive chairman.



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