EasyJet’s Charles Gurassa named new Channel 4 chairman

Charless Gurassa will replace Lord Burns as chairman of Channel 4, who is set to step down on Wednesday (27 January).

Gurassa has been tasked with dealing with the government’s upcoming review of the broadcaster, which may result in privatisation.

He has been appointed chairman for an intial three year period, a decision which has been approved by culture secretary John Whittingdale. The Guardian reported that Gurassa was Ofcom’s first suggestion to the department for culture, which can veto its suggestions.

Gurassa joins Channel 4 from EasyJet, where he was deputy chairman. He has experience in taking companies public, having overseen Virgin Mobile’s flotation as chairman in 2004 and serving as an independent director of entertainment company Merlin from 2013 when it listed on the stock exchange.

He also served as chairman of LoveFilm, which was bought by Amazon in 2011, chief executive of Thomson Travel Group, and deputy director of the National Trust.

Gurassa's first task in his new role will be dealing with the impending government review of the broadcaster, after a document was leaked in September outlining plans to privatise.

Lord Burns told an audience of senior broadcasters, MPs and producers earlier this month that the broadcasters not-for-profit structure continues to be successful, and voiced his opposition to privatising Channel 4, an option which falls in line with the Government’s agenda.

Burns said: "My view quite clearly is that any substantial change in the ownership of Channel 4 towards an equity-based ownership would be very damaging."

Deputy chairman Mark Price had been tipped as the leading successor to Lord Burns after he stepped down from his role as MD of Waitrose in October. Ofcom director Stephen Hill also reportedly applied to the job.

Ofcom chairwoman Dame Patricia Hodgson said: "I‘m delighted that we have appointed a chairman of Charles’s calibre to Channel 4. He brings with him a wealth of experience built up across a broad range of sectors. I would also like to thank Lord Burns, Channel 4’s chairman for the past six years. He has made a tremendous contribution to the success of Channel 4."

Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, said: "Charles clearly brings a wealth of experience to the role from both the business world and his work in the charity and not-for-profit sectors."

Gurassa said: "I am excited to be joining Channel 4, which has a unique place in UK broadcasting. I look forward to exploring Channel 4’s important contribution in a rapidly changing sector."

Along with his new role of chair of Channel 4, Gurassa also fulfils roles as chairman of the Genesis Housing Association, a Trustee of English Heritage and a patron of the Royal Opera House.

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