DTI role for Lord Hollick

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Lord Hollick, chief executive of United News and Media and one of Labour's most prominent business supporters, is set to be appointed special adviser to Margaret Beckett, the new President of the Board of Trade.

The media peer has long been a close confidante of the Prime Minister Tony Blair and was one of the handful of top executives chosen to promote Labour's Business Manifesto during the election campaign.

His appointment would invite comparison with the role that Lord Sterling, chairman of P&O, played under successive Conservative trade and industry secretaries during the 1980s. Lord Sterling acted as a special adviser to five secretaries of state between 1982 and 1990.

Lord Hollick was born in Southampton in 1945, the son of a French polisher, went to the local grammar school and joined the Labour party when he was 15. He went into the City, becoming the youngest director of Hambros Bank, before being asked to rescue a failing bank which he went on to rename MAI, the company with which he made his fortune.

Whitehall sources were stressing yesterday that Lord Hollick, whose United News and Media group owns the Express titles and the Anglia and Meridian television franchises, would not be Mrs Beckett's only adviser.

Each member of the Cabinet is expected to be allowed to appoint two political advisers. One other name mentioned as a potential special adviser to Mrs Beckett is Professor Mark Taylor, who played an important role in Mrs Beckett's inner team before the election.