Merger storm may not blow over this time

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The Independent Online
Despite his 62 years, Graeme Odgers sees his reappointment as chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) for a further two years yesterday as "extremely challenging and extremely stimulating".

His three-and-a-half years in the office so far have been dominated by the privatised utilities. "We've had the first British Gas report, water, electricity. There is an element of consistency across the utilities which has been helped enormously by our involvement," he said.

Then there have been the bids for VSEL by GEC and British Aerospace, and the two power generation mergers which Mr Odgers opposed but which the Government waved through. "Very interesting cases," he says.

There does, however, seem to be a storm looming. When Sir Bryan Carsberg was director general of the Office of Fair Trading, the regulatory policeman to the MMC's judiciary, Sir Bryan recommended that the two bodies be merged. Mr Odgers got the better of the argument, and Sir Bryan left the OFT 15 months ago.

But now the Labour party supports an OFT/MMC merger. What will happen next year if Tony and Co get in? "I think these are highly complicated areas," Mr Odgers says diplomatically. "And who knows who will be the next party in power?"

Who indeed? Mr Odgers has a distinguished industrial career behind him, including the top job at BT. Does he have any plans for his next job when he leaves the MMC? He laughs. "I'm 62, so we'll leave that until it comes."

The Albert Fisher Group has appointed a new chief executive, Neil England, who is currently vice president of Mars, the American food giant, in Moscow.

But hang on a minute. The British foods group Albert Fisher already has an executive chairman, the ambitious Stephen Walls. So who's going to run things?

"Mr England will run the world-wide company, day to day, driving the company forward," says an Albert Fisher spokesman. "This frees up Mr Wall, who can concentrate on strategic issues."

This has tempted some observers of the food industry scene to speculate that Mr Wall will now be "freed up" to accept a job with a bigger company, as he is "not without ambition".

The Albert Fisher spokesman is not impressed by this idea, however. "There's plenty of work for the two of them."

Richard Eyre, chief executive of Capital Radio, London's biggest independent radio station, is moving his head office and studios from the fly-blown wastes of the Euston Road to the throbbing heart of the West End - Leicester Square.

Capital is opening a hyper chic restaurant in the basement of its new building on 18 November to tie in with the move.

But the eatery will not be a themed tourist trap.

Instead Mr Eyre's restaurant will include a radio studio, with DJs such as Chris Tarrant and various rock stars popping in to do their stuff in front of the diners.