Alistair Defriez, a senior corporate financier with SBC Warburg, is to be the new head of the Takeover Panel when William Staple returns in March to his job as a director of Rothschilds.
Mr Defriez, aged 44, has been a director of Warburg's corporate finance business since 1987, specialising in contested takeovers. He recently saw action in the unsuccessful defence of Forte against the hostile bid from Granada, and last year was prominent in the team that fought Northern Electric's corner against the attack by Trafalgar House conducted by Swiss Bank Corporation, which a few months later went on to buy SBC Warburg.
Innovative tactics adopted by SBC during the Northern bid, which for the first time used derivative contracts for differences in a contested takeover, took the City by surprise and produced considerable tension between the rival investment banks. In an ironical twist, Mr Defriez was prominent on the Warburg team that lodged a formal complaint to the Takeover Panel about SBC's methods. Following an inquiry, SBC was cleared of breaching the Takeover Panel's rules, but it was decided to launch a review of the code to take account of these new developments.
That review is expected to be concluded in a month or so, and one of the early actions by Mr Defriez will be to announce the changes brought about by the complaint against the firm that soon became his employer. Insiders do not expect the changes to be significant.
The job of director general of the Takeover Panel, which oversees the regulation of Stock Exchange-listed companies during takeovers, is rotated on a buggins turn two-year basis among leading merchant banks in the City, whose senior corporate finance executives take up the post on secondment.
"It is not a job you apply for, it is one of those invitations you cannot refuse," Mr Defriez said. The rotation format is designed to maintain the practitioner expertise at the panel.