EDITORIAL: PR crucial weapon in ousting of Green

The battle to oust Carlton Communications founder Michael Green from the chair of the new ITV plc was as much about PR as corporate finance.

The erstwhile City darling has seen his reputation shredded, despite last-ditch attempts by his board - they drafted in Brunswick last week - to salvage it.

And yet, Green and Carlton are not the only ones to have placed a premium on the oxygen of publicity. The statement last weekend from Fidelity Investments head Anthony Bolton - who leads a dissenting shareholder group representing a third of both Carlton and merger partner Granada Media - was hugely informative.

Bolton's pledge, in a letter to the senior non-executives on the putative ITV board, said: 'Failing receipt of satisfactory undertakings from both companies (that Green will leave before the merger's completion), we will take immediate steps to publicise our initiative.'

There is, of course, the small point that, by enabling every Sunday newspaper to report the contents of this letter, Bolton had already taken steps to 'publicise' the 'initiative'. But the more important truth is that Fidelity's version of shareholder activism was neither legal nor financial in nature, but PR-based.

Fidelity is, of course, within its rights to make its voice heard among companies it part-owns. But it failed to state clearly its own long-term plans, even though installing its preferred candidate, an investment banker, as chairman can have only one outcome: a sale. Fidelity has thus fallen short of the openness and transparency of motive that its foray into shareholder activism would appear to endorse.

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