EasyJet Plc Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall is stepping down from the discount carrier to take up the same role at ITV Plc, the U.K. broadcaster that’s dealing with a slowdown in advertising amid recurrent takeover speculation.
McCall will leave EasyJet around the end of the year and join ITV on Jan. 8, the companies said in separate statements Monday. A search for a successor has already begun, the Luton, England-based airline said. The 55-year-old CEO told the airline’s board of her decision Sunday, a person familiar with the matter said before the announcement.
“After seven years, the opportunity from ITV felt like the right one to take,” McCall said in the EasyJet statement. “It is a fantastic company in a dynamic and stimulating sector. EasyJet is a structural winner in a brilliant position, and I look forward to being a loyal customer in the years to come.”
As the replacement for outgoing ITV CEO Adam Crozier, McCall will inherit a business that is cutting jobs and slimming costs as it faces declines in advertising sales with retailers wary over the short-term outlook for Brexit and rising inflation. Crozier took over the top job in 2010 and has worked to rejuvenate the U.K.’s biggest free-to-air broadcaster, building up its ITV Studios production arm to reduce its reliance on advertising.
Ad sales made up 47 percent of ITV’s overall revenue in 2016, compared to 64 percent in 2010, the year Crozier joined. ITV’s shares have almost tripled since Crozier became CEO, giving the company a market value of 7 billion pounds ($9.2 billion).
Billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc owns about 9.9 percent of ITV, which is a perennial subject of takeover speculation, talk that has intensified since the Brexit vote.
McCall took over at EasyJet in July 2010 after rising to the helm of the Guardian Media Group. Since then she has helped transform the European aviation industry along with rival Ryanair Holdings Plc through the rapid expansion of low-cost carriers. More recently the airline has struggled with the impact of Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, the collapse of oil prices and a string of terror attacks which has driven a slump in ticket prices.
The next EasyJet CEO must “increase focus on cost management and possible restructuring,” Daniel Roeska and Caius Slater, analysts for Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote Sunday in a note to investors. “We think bringing in an external candidate, given the required qualifications, with fewer ties to the organization and a fresh view, may be beneficial for shareholders.”
EasyJet shares closed little changed at 1,411 pence Friday in London, valuing the company at 5.6 billion pounds. The shares are down 8 percent since the Brexit vote in June 2016 after having lost about a third of its value after the referendum.
Sky News reported Saturday that McCall was resigning. Last year she was linked to a possible move to become the boss at London-based retailer Marks & Spencer Group Plc.