Ex-BA director George in talks to join Manchester United

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The Independent Online

Martin George, who resigned as commercial director of British Airways last year over price-fixing allegations, is in talks to join Manchester United in the same role. Mr George, a York City fan, is understood to have been in negotiations with the Premiership club since before Christmas, but has not yet been offered the job or decided whether to accept it.

Manchester United is the biggest football club in the world and has more than 50 million supporters. Taking on the job of commercial director would guarantee Mr George a high-profile return to the business scene.

The club generated revenues of £160m last year, about a quarter of which came from commercial activities. Malcolm Glazer, the American sports tycoon who paid £800m for the club in May, 2005, wants to increase its revenues from the US and Far East. Last year the club signed a £56m four-year shirt sponsorship deal with the insurer AIG.

At one time, Mr George was tipped as a future chief executive of BA, but he was forced to resign last October after admitting that "inappropriate" conversations had taken place between members of his department and rival airlines over the setting of fuel surcharges.

He had been placed on indefinite leave of absence after the Office of Fair Trading raided BA's headquarters in June. BA's head of communications, Iain Burns, who resigned at the same time as Mr George, takes up a new job as vice-president of corporate communications at the United Arab Emirates airline Etihad Airways next week.

Industry sources say that since the initial burst of activity by the OFT occurred last June, during which time computer and telephone records were removed from BA's offices, the investigation appears to have gone quiet.

The OFT investigation was sparked after the rival carrier Virgin Atlantic blew the whistle. Anti-trust authorities in the US are also investigating the alleged fixing of fuel surcharges by transatlantic airlines.

A Manchester United spokeswoman said: "The club is going through the process of seeking a commercial director and an announcement will be made when that is complete."

Mr George could not be reached for comment yesterday.