JC Flowers plans to get Rock rolling again

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JC Flowers signalled the strength of its interest in buying Northern Rock yesterday by announcing the management team it would appoint to turn around the stricken mortgage lender.

The private investment firm picked Paul Myners, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer, to be chairman, with Richard Pym, until recently chief executive of Alliance & Leicester, as his deputy and interim chief executive. Hugh Scott-Barrett, the ex-finance director of ABN Amro, is earmarked for the same job at Northern Rock.

Mr Myners is a City heavy-weight with strong Government connections, having produced an influential rep-ort on institutional investment for the Treasury in 2001. He was chairman of Gartmore, the fund manager, for 14 years before stepping down in 2001. In recent years, he was best known for fighting off Philip Green's bid for Marks & Spencer in 2004.

Mr Pym ran Alliance & Leicester for five years before retiring in July. Like Northern Rock, Alliance & Leicester is a former building society. He was credited with putting the bank on a stable footing after a period of turbulence including an aborted takeover by Bank of Ireland, management departures and over-ambitious targets.

"They have got a pretty decent bunch of experienced people," Oriel Securities analyst Mike Trippitt said. "Richard is a very professional guy and would do a good job. If you wanted to be negative, you would say he hasn't got experience of the kind of turnaround required at Northern Rock."

JC Flowers also announ-ced three advisers to its team: Bob Bennett, former Northern Rock finance dir-ector; Peter Birch, ex-chief executive of Abbey National; and Sir Martin Jacomb, the former chairman of Prudential and deputy chairman of Barclays.

Mr Bennett's inclusion could raise eyebrows. Before stepping down last year, he was Northern Rock's finance director for most of its years of breakneck expansion funded by wholesale markets. But it may be necessary to have someone with his intimate knowledge of the bank's business on board.

JC Flowers and Sir Rich-ard Branson's Virgin Money consortium are the two most serious suitors for Northern Rock. Virgin Money said two weeks ago that its chief executive, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, would run the bank.

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