Under pressure gay TV executive Charles Allen has resigned as head of ITV after criticism regarding poor ratings and advertising revenues.

Speculation has been rife over the director’s future but ITV plc announced this morning that Mr Allen will leave once a replacement is found.

Finance director John Cresswell will be appointed interim chief executive from October and will work with Mr Allen through the handover period.

The search for a permanent successor is starting immediately and headhunters are being appointed.

Mr Allen has been at Granada plc and then ITV plc for 15 years, 10 of which as chief executive. During that time he led the consolidation of ITV, culminating in the successful merger of Granada and Carlton to create a single ITV plc in early 2004.

Sir Peter Burt, chairman, said: “The Board of ITV plc owes its thanks to Charles for his success in creating a single ITV company from the federal structure that he inherited and for preparing the company for television in the digital age. Charles has done an excellent job over the past two years in integrating the business after the merger, in reducing costs and in reducing the burden of regulation on ITV and at the same time developing ITV’s successful family of digital channels.

“The growth in the Company’s business and profits since the merger reflects that success. I have enjoyed working with Charles over the past two and a half years and we all wish him the best in the future. We shall watch with great interest his future contribution to UK plc.

“I am delighted that we have someone of the calibre of John to take over in the short term, and the Board has every confidence in his ability to hold the fort pending the appointment of Charles’ successor.”

Mr Allen said: “I have enjoyed enormously my 15 years with Granada and ITV and especially in creating a single ITV Company and shaping the nation’s number one commercial broadcaster as a major player in the digital age.

“Over that time I have worked with the most talented and creative people in the industry and am pleased that so many of them are now in the strong management team that is implementing our strategy to develop ITV’s businesses for the future.

“I am particularly proud of the work that my colleagues have done in creating one of the top production companies in Europe, building the leading commercial family of digital channels, creating the foundations of our consumer business and building confidence in our national and regional news. I have made many friends amongst my colleagues and I wish them all the best for the future. My focus now is to support John and the Board through the transition process, following which I will move forward to the next chapter of my life and a new set of challenges.”

He was recently ranked number 15 in The Independent’s Pink List of the most influential gay and lesbian people.

The ITV channel has been experiencing a ratings slump this summer with poor viewing figures for the World Cup and programmes such as Love Island, which has lost out to Channel 4’s Big Brother.