SMG-UTV merger talks off, as SMG announces new chief exec

AS eNewsletter subscribers were informed yesterday, in a surprising development, the owners of stv are no longer in merger talks with their Ulster counterparts and have appointed as chief executive a former Channel 4 commercial director who had appeared, just recently, to have failed to gather sufficient shareholder support in a bid to become boss.

In a statement issued to the City late yesterday afternoon, SMG announced that merger talks with UTV had been terminated. It was also announced that Rob Woodward had been appointed chief executive, succeeding acting chief executive, Donald Emslie, who had been at the helm since the departure of Andrew Flanagan in July.

Emslie keeps hold of a senior position, but chair Chris Masters is out, replaced by Richard Findlay, who had been presented by Woodward, as a possible chair, to major shareholders many months ago.

The merger talks had not been the first being conducted between the two companies. But last time around, based on the City valuing SMG more than UTV, SMG believed its shareholders merited a bigger percentage share of the combined entity than was being offered by UTV: 52 per cent.

But then, after a profits warning from SMG led to the City ‘turning the tables’ and revaluing Ulster more than SMG, new talks began. That was in December.

As well as announcing the termination of talks, the statement to the City also said: “In response to a request from Hanover Investors Management LLP, who has the support of a group of shareholders, Chris Masters has agreed to step down as chairman and the board has appointed Richard Findlay as the new chairman of SMG, with immediate effect.”