Bridgeman new OFT boss

A man who has spent most of his life with Alcan sees need for more cohesion, writes Roger Trapp

John Bridgeman was confirmed yesterday as the new director general of the Office of Fair Trading, a job Sir Bryan Carsberg announced last December that he was leaving. Many believe he went because he felt hamstrung by politicians.

Mr Bridgeman is the man picked by Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, whose policy on competition is to let the markets sort things out for themselves. Speculation that this prompted Sir Bryan's decision was strengthened when he recently criticised developments in the area.

Mr Bridgeman, managing director of British Alcan Aluminium until he takes up his post at the Office of Fair Trading on 1 October, acknowledged that the competition policy role had attracted most attention. But there was a need for "more cohesion in respect of consumer protection issues".

The announcement, which had been expected for some time, brings to an end one of the most tortuous government appointment processes ever.

The International headhunters, Saxton Bampfylde, began the search at the turn of the year, with the intention of getting somebody in place by the time Sir Bryan left to become secretary-general of the International Accounting Standards Committee in May. In fact, former deputy director general Jeffrey Preston has been carrying out the role.

With a brief to find someone who combined an intellectual understanding of the issues involved with practical experience of industry, Saxton Bampfylde soon settled on Mr Bridgeman - on the strength of recommendations from business people in Britain and elsewhere.

But the announcement has been delayed largely because Mr Bridgeman has been preoccupied with spinning off the "downstream" operations of his company into a separate operation that will employ about 4,500 people and have a turnover of about pounds 450m. The end of next month was the earliest he could leave, he said.

Apart from a brief spell at the then National Coal Board, Mr Bridgeman, 50, has spent his career at the Canadian-based Alcan. However, as he pointed out to Mr Heseltine, he has performed so many different roles with the diversified Montreal-based company that he regards himself as having experience of several different industries.

His work in helping form Alcan's strategy has been singled out by some observers, while others cite his membership of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission since 1990.

In the months since he emerged as front-runner for the post, Mr Bridgeman has been praised as a "thinking man's businessman", with an ability to see the big picture. Ian Lang, who replaced Mr Heseltine at the Board of Trade in the recent ministerial reshuffle, welcomed his appointment.

Recent rises in public sector salaries mean that Mr Bridgeman could be paid significantly more than Sir Bryan's reputed pounds 110,000. But he would only say that he would earn more than President Clinton's $200,000 and a lot less than his salary at the UK subsidiary of Alcan. A legacy from his recently deceased mother would help close the gap, he said.

A companion of the Institute of Management, Mr Bridgeman has also been visiting professor of management at Keele University since 1992.

It has been suggested his long association with the Territorial Army might prepare him for the flak he can expect at the OFT. But he rejects the idea he might come under fire. He hoped that, by the end of his term, those who were wary of having a businessman in the role would have been won over.

Comment, above

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn