Alan Groves, finance director of Northern Electric and a key part of the team that fought Trafalgar House's takeover attempt, announced yesterday he is leaving the company later this year.
He will be replaced by John Edwards, 46, finance chief of Jaguar Cars for 15 years, who could find himself on the sharp end of a takeover fight almost immediately.
Although Trafalgar's offer for Northern was scuppered when the electricity regulator announced new price cuts, analysts believe the company will eventually make a second takeover bid.
A spokeswoman said Mr Groves, 58, had decided to retire, but would work with Mr Edwards, who joins in August, during a transitional period.
The company would not disclose Mr Edwards' terms of employment, though it is expected he has arranged safeguards should he lose his job in the event of a successful Trafalgar bid.
Mr Edwards was Jaguar's finance director during its spin-off from British Leyland, flotation in 1984 and then takeover by Ford in 1989.