Heavy-hitters lined up for competiton watchdog role

  • @MLeftly

A former chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission and a top European official are "big hitters" that have been linked to chairing the UK's new competition regulator.

The Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission are set to be merged as the Competition and Markets Authority in April 2014, and the Business Department is seeking a respected figure to oversee the body. The chairman would be brought in early to lead what could be a complicated integration process.

The Government is thought to have drawn up a shortlist for the role, with William Kovacic, who headed the FTC under George Bush, and Philip Lowe, who was director general of European competition for a decade, thought to be potential candidates.

Although Oxford-educated Mr Lowe is British, the two names are distanced enough from the two existing bodies to ensure that there is no internal squabbles over whether the OFT or CC have gained the upper hand in the merger.

However, Mr Lowe would face a problem in that he has only just become European director general for energy.

A regulation source said: "It looks like the department wants to get someone selected before Parliament's summer recess [in July]. Kovacic would be interesting as a foreigner with knowledge of how a big regulator works."

A second source added that the Government "would not be able to put up anyone too close to the CC and OFT", so the pair would make suitable candidates.

Mr Kovacic, a Republican Party appointment, was named an FTC commissioner in 2006, and President Bush made him the body's chairman in 2008.

Last week, the OFT asked Clive Maxwell, a former Treasury official, to become chief executive while the two anti-trust agencies go through the merger.