The chief executive of Dixons Carphone has held talks about taking the helm at ITV, turning the race to lead the commercial broadcaster into a three-way tussle with the bosses of easyJet and Direct Line Group.
Sky News understands that Seb James, who has run Dixons Carphone since the merger of Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse in 2014, was approached about the top job at ITV in recent weeks as it narrowed the search for a successor to Adam Crozier.
It was unclear on Friday evening whether Mr James remained in contention to run ITV.
The Guardian reported this week that Carolyn McCall, the EasyJet chief executive, was the leading candidate to replace Mr Crozier, and sources close to the process said that the company planned to make an announcement about the identity of its new boss next week.
There were suggestions on Friday evening that talks with Ms McCall over a prospective pay deal at ITV were complicating negotiations, although that speculation could not be confirmed.
Ms McCall is the former boss of Guardian Media Group, while Paul Geddes, Direct Line’s chief executive, is on the board of Channel 4 and was a marketing executive at companies including Argos and Procter & Gamble.
The involvement of a trio of FTSE 100 chief executives in the process to recruit ITV’s next supremo underlines the extent to which the company has been stabilised, even as it faces the uncertainties posed by a difficult advertising market.
Mr Crozier replaced Michael – now Lord – Grade in 2010, with ITV’s shares languishing at around 56p, while they closed on Friday at 176.6p, giving the company a market value of £7.3bn.
The former chief executive, who left last week, prioritised diversifying ITV’s business away from a reliance on advertising, building its content business through a string of acquisitions, such as Talpa Media, producer of The Voice, and Mammoth Screen, whose hit shows include the BBC drama series Poldark.
ITV’s shares have also benefited from perennial takeover speculation, which was fuelled when Liberty Global, the owner of Virgin Media, bought a minority stake in the company from BSkyB, the owner of Sky News which has since been renamed Sky plc.
Sir Peter Bazalgette took over as ITV’s chairman from Archie Norman, the former Asda boss.
Spokesmen for ITV and Dixons Carphone both declined to comment on Friday evening.