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Alcan boss to succeed Carsberg

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, is poised to appoint a businessman, John Bridgeman, as director-general of the Office of Fair Trading.

Mr Bridgeman, 50, is managing director of British Alcan Aluminium but also has a reputation as a strategic thinker.

He is a visiting professor of management at Keele University and his previous appointments include worldwide head of strategic planning at Alcan, a company he has worked at for nearly 30 years.

Mr Bridgeman has the additional qualification of being a member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission since 1990 where he has seen the other side of the competition business, because this is where the OFT and the Government send merger and competition investigations.

Mr Bridgeman, a sportsman and a member of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, has a keen interest in the arts. A source described him as a "Nineties man" rather than a traditional businessman.

The appointment, which Mr Heseltine was unable to clinch in time for the departure of Sir Bryan Carsberg from the OFT last month, is thought to have been held up by detailed negotiations over terms and conditions, including the salary. A final decision is said to be near.

In Sir Bryan's case, at about pounds 110,000 the salary was well below senior industrialist levels, and there have been suggestions that the Government could go as high as pounds 140,000.

This week Clare Spottiswoode, the gas regulator, received a backdated 22 per cent increase to pounds 90,000 a year because her job proved more time- consuming than expected. Pay levels have been rising in other areas recently, with senior Downing Street officials and the rail regulator said to be receiving pounds 125,000 a year.

It has long been known that Mr Heseltine has no enthusiasm for seeing a lawyer or accountant at the OFT, the qualifications of the two previous incumbents. With hundreds of staff, the job specification also emphasised managerial skills, underlining Mr Heseltine's preference for a pragmatic business person who can bring an intellectual understanding of difficult issues.

One of Mr Heseltine's difficulties in recruitment has been the well-known tension between himself and Sir Bryan Carsberg. It is widely thought that Sir Bryan and Mr Heseltine failed to see eye to eye on the fundamentals of competition policy. The President took the view that in certain circumstances the need of industry to be internationally competitive should override immediate competition concerns.