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BBC Technology chief sacked for ‘misusing hospitality’

Multi-million pound IT division still seeking a buyer

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The managing director of the BBC's IT arm, Ann Wilson, has been sacked with immediate effect for "misusing hospitality", despite currently overseeing the multi-million-pound sale of the division to the world's biggest technology companies.

The decision came following discplinary proceedings, and staff were informed on Tuesday. A memo sent out to BBC Technology staff by Mark Byford - who is acting director general after Greg Dyke's resignation following the Hutton Inquiry fall-out - explained that Ms Wilson had been dismissed for "the misuse of hospitality".

A BBC spokeswoman today confirmed Ms Wilson's dismissal.

Despite an assertion that the matter was unrelated to the impending sale of BBC Technology - expected to go for more than £100 million - the fact that misusing hospitality has been publicly given as the reason for Ms Wilson's dismissal is highly unusual, and has been recognised as such by the media organisation.

"There is no connection at all between Ann Wilson being dismissed and the sale and procurement of BBC Technology," the corporation said, stressing that the BBC's CTO, John Varney, had always been in overall charge of the division's sell-off.

Nine companies that have expressed an interest in BBC Technology: IBM, HP, Fujitsu, EDS, Siemens, Capita, Accenture, CSC and Logica.

The sale of BBC Technology, announced in November last year, was already controversial, with the division's 1,400 staff fearing massive job losses would follow the sale. However, the BBC had admitted it couldn't cope with larger companies such as IBM and EDS, and estimated that outsourcing its IT needs rather than continuing the monopoly that BBC Technology enjoys could save it £30 million a year.

With the division's internationally recognised expertise, impressive infrastructure, and with BBC contracts worth several billion over time a virtual certainty, companies have been desperate to get their foot in the door. A shortlist of bidders will be drawn up at the end of April and a final decision made in late autumn, a spokesman told us.

Ms Wilson was brought in to head up the division in August 2002 and put in charge of commercially promoting the division's products across the world. She came from the position of COO at management consulting firm Arthur D Little and had previously worked for Phillips and IBM.

The BBC will not explain what hospitality she allegedly misused, and whose it was, but rumours are that transatlantic trips played an important role in the decision to fire her.

The BBC said it would look for a replacement for Ms Wilson in the next few weeks. ®

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