Channel 5 owner Richard Desmond set to scupper ITV’s new sales team

Daily Express owner Richard Desmond has compiled a huge fortune by, among other things, not playing by the rules as they are understood by rival media owners.

And now, as the new owner of Channel 5, he’s about to scupper ITV’s intended rebirth by holding his sales director Kelly Williams, who’s planning to move to ITV in the same role, to every minute of his one year non-compete ‘gardening leave’ thereby preventing him supervising 2012 airtime negotiations with the UK’s big media agencies, the equivalent of the US ‘upfronts.’

This will leave the negotiations in the hands of new ITV sales and marketing boss Fru Hazlitt and right hand man Simon Daglish, both of whom know a lot about radio but not all that much about handling negotiations at TV’s sharp end.

The heat is well and truly on in the UK TV airtime market with last year’s surge in ITV revenue to £1.5bn looking increasingly like a dead cat’s bounce as sales slide alarmingly over the summer.

Having paid over £100m for Channel 5 less than a year ago Desmond is hardly likely to do his much bigger rival a favour.

ITV still maintains that Williams will be joining in August as originally planned, based on the assumption presumably that deal will be as it usually is in these circumstances.

But Desmond, like his pal Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP, plays hardball in such matters.

Perhaps ITV bosses CEO Adam Crozier and chairman Archie Norman could rehire defenestrated sales director Gary Digby on a freelance contract?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.