Adam Crozier "the 'Tony Blair' of business"

Adam Crozier is to become the new chief executive of ITV. But is he up to the job and worth the £15m-£16m package?

"If Tony Blair had gone into business, he would have been Adam Crozier... A great moderniser and marketer" is how Allan Leighton former Royal Mail chairman and kingmaker of Britain's blue-chip boardrooms sums up his protg, Adam Crozier, in his book, On Leadership. He tells how, when Crozier was made chief of the Royal Mail, the first thing he did was clock on with the posties at 4.30am. Crozier apparently has empathy in spades. But he also specialises in what he calls "thrawn" Scottish for "deliberately difficult". Managing director of war-torn Saatchi's at 31, saviour of the Football Association (FA) at 36, chief executive of the Royal Mail at 39, the still boyish Crozier is, to some, a management prodigy. And now, in a deal worth £15m, he is to become the new chief executive of ITV. But is he up to the job?

On paper, Crozier's record speaks for itself, says Media Week. He faced "seemingly intractable financial and labour conditions at the Royal Mail", yet managed to steer the company back into the black. But "at what cost"? asks The Sunday Times: only "the worst industrial relations since Captain Bligh". Morale and service levels fell so sharply it often seemed the Royal Mail was on strike, even when it wasn't. When the pickets did come out, Crozier hardly led from the front, says Neil Collins on Breakingviews. For much of the strike he was nowhere to be seen. And he leaves the Royal Mail in political and commercial limbo. Making enemies seems to be a recurring theme, says The Guardian. Although critics concede Crozier deserves credit for updating the FA and the gamble to bring in Sven-Goran Eriksson as England's first foreign manager, Crozier was never exactly welcomed into the football fraternity. "Put it this way, I wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire," a former FA executive told the newspaper. "He hired this new breed of advertising and marketing people on super-duper wages and left a black hole in the finances. There was a lot of resentment."

Crozier, 46, was brought up on the island of Bute (his father was estate manager for Lord Bute). He went to a tough comprehensive school in Falkirk and took a degree in business organisation at Herriot Watt. After a stint as a graduate trainee with Mars (at Pedigree Petfood), he jumped into a job in media sales at the Telegraph Group in 1986 nearly losing it when he was caught "exaggerating" his figures, notes Management Today. That didn't stop him being headhunted by Saatchi & Saatchi, where he stood out as a smooth operator and rose quickly, becoming joint chief executive in 1995 during the fall-out from Maurice Saatchi's acrimonious departure. "It was a baptism of fire", says Media Week, but the consensus is that he "held the agency together under extreme pressure".

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With his slicked-back hair and "emotionless slab of a face", Crozier often comes across as detached. "There is a certain coldness about him," says a former Saatchi colleague, "but he is also able to switch on the wit and charm." "The view is that he is a lucky devil, slipping from one slightly mixed bag to another," observed one media banker last week. Indeed, ITV employees should be warned, says the Evening Standard: "If Tony Blair had gone into business, he would have been Adam Crozier."

Is Crozier really worth £15m to ITV?

Is Crozier worth the £15m-£16m package he's reportedly in line for at ITV? Rebellion is already stirring. One big shareholder, up in arms at the pay deal, described Crozier as "totally unproven". Even more question the wisdom of a board in which neither chairman (Archie Norman), nor chief-executive (Crozier), have any experience of broadcasting. There's a distinct whiff of nepotism in the air, and the conspiracy theorists are out in force, observes the Evening Standard. Critics question the role of Allan Leighton, Crozier's former boss at the Royal Mail, who is also a friend of Norman's from Asda days. Crucially, for the conspiracists, Leighton is also a director of Sky, ITV's rival. "They will see the influence of Rupert Murdoch in all this Sky ensures its closest competitor is managed by an untried novice"

You could hardly call Crozier that, says The Guardian. At Saatchi's, he was no stranger to media brands. You might say he represents the triumph of the 'adman' in broadcasting. Only last week, the top job at Channel 4 went to fellow advertising executive, David Abraham. Why have the commanding heights of British broadcasting fallen into the hands of a group of slick advertising men? "Partly because, like chocolate bars or deodorant success in a crowded market place depends on differentiation", so image is all important. Programme-making seems of secondary importance, agrees Peter Preston in The Observer. But Crozier needs to remember the meat. Cutting costs and rebuilding advertising revenues is all very well, "but it's not a recovery clincher unless someone remembers to give us good reasons to switch on the set in the first place".