Belfast Telegraph

Former UTV chief executive McCann to retire from Wireless role

By Staff Reporter

The long-time chief executive of the former UTV Media group has announced he will retire in May.

John McCann, who is now boss of the Wireless Group — the new name for the remaining UTV radio stations following the sale of its television assets to ITV — will step down after 23 years on the firm’s board.  He has been CEO for 16 years.

One of Mr McCann’s last acts was to sell UTV’s television channel in Northern Ireland, as well as the UTV Ireland TV business which he and Michael Wilson launched to great fanfare last year.  But the new channel struggled to gain traction and the company issued four profit warnings as a result.

Michael Wilson is staying with UTV as managing director of the TV assets on both sides of the border under ITV’s ownership. 

Wireless Group has asked Richard Huntingford to become the firm’s executive chairman.

Mr McCann joined UTV as a financial controller in 1983, then went on to become a director and general manager in 1990, before being named as chief executive in 1999.  He qualified as an accountant with Ernst and Young, and worked with the former Industrial Development Board (IDB), which was later replaced by Invest NI. 

Mr McCann said he “spent a couple of fascinating years there”.

He took over from Desmond Smyth in 1999 in the UTV top job.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the company began looking at radio in the Republic, and set up radio station U105 in Belfast in 2005.  It also bought Wireless Group — a name it’s now putting to use.

Helen Kirkpatrick, senior independent director at Wireless Group, thanked Mr McCann for his service to the firm.“He leaves the company in a very healthy state and with our fondest best wishes,” she said. “I am delighted that Richard will be taking on the role of executive chairman. His deep experience of the radio industry and existing knowledge of the company’s businesses will ensure that the company continues to focus all its efforts on delivering long-term value for shareholders.”

Mr McCann will retire at the time of the AGM in May later this year.

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