Oftel ready to appoint successor to Cruickshank

A SHORTLIST of four candidates, consisting of two academics, one consumer watchdog and a senior civil servant, has been drawn up for the top job at Oftel, the telecommunications regulator.

Don Cruickshank is quitting the pounds 138,000-a-year post at the end of March and the appointment of a successor is thought to be close.

The four candidates are Sue Slipman, director of the Gas Consumers Council, Dermot Glynn, former head of National Economic Research Associates in the UK, Martin Cave, Professor of Economics at Brunel University and an adviser to Oftel, and Jim Norton, chief executive of the Government's Radio Communications Agency.

Mr Cruickshank's successor will join Oftel at an important moment with the Government about to unveil a wide-ranging shake-up of utility regulation. It is also preparing to issue a discussion paper in the next month examining whether Oftel's functions should be incorporated into a wider regulator body encompassing the whole field of communications, including media.

Ms Slipman has raised the profile of the Gas Consumers Council since arriving in October 1996 and would be well qualified to carry through the Government's objective of making consumer interests a priority for each of the regulators. But there are question marks over her experience of regulation and business.

Mr Glynn founded the UK arm of Nera in 1985 but left just before Christmas after a dispute with the consultancy's American owners, he has now set up a new consultancy called European Economic Research.

Mr Norton has worked at both BT and Cable & Wireless, where he was a regional manager and then general manager responsible for business development. In his current job he is responsible for allocating the radio spectrum.

Mr Cave has advised Oftel for a number of years on economics, fair trading issues and price controls, including the latest BT price formula. He is also vice-principal of Brunel and a member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and has advised other regulators including Ofgas and the Brussels competition authority DGIV.

Mr Cruickshank completes his five year stint as director general of telecommunications at the end of next month. He has taken up the part-time post as chairman of the Prime Minister's Millennium Bug campaign but is looking for a full- time job in the private sector.

Mr Cruickshank is due to give evidence next month to the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, setting out his view on the future of regulation.