United blocks RTL plan to make Eyre head of C5

Plans to appoint Richard Eyre, RTL director of strategy and content, as chairman of Channel 5 have collapsed after objections from United News & Media, the 35 per cent owner of the channel.

Eyre’s chairmanship of C5 was announced in April when two of the channel’s owners merged – Pearson TV, which Eyre had just joined as chief executive, and CLT-Ufa, part-owned by Bertelsmann.

The combined entity, RTL, owns the remaining 65 per cent of C5. It was suggested at the time that Eyre was offered the post of C5 chairman as a “sop” for having his job changed (MW April 20).

He joined Pearson TV as chief executive just before the merger with CLT-Ufa was announced. After joining, he discovered he would become third in command in the enlarged organisation.

An RTL spokesman says the new job of director of content is far broader and more important than the old one. But observers say Eyre is unhappy about the situation. The spokesman says Eyre is unlikely to become chairman unless RTL takes full control of C5 by buying United’s stake.

UN&M, headed by Lord Hollick, is understood to have been infuriated that it was not consulted about the decision to make Eyre chairman of C5, and that it had not been told of the merger plans.

According to the shareholder agreement for C5, each owner must appoint a chairman in turn. It is UN&M’s turn next, and it is understood to have invoked the agreement to take advantage of this. C5’s current chairman is Remy Sauter, a CLT-Ufa executive who was expected to step down to make way for Eyre.

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