Robb to head nuclear company

The Government has appointed John Robb, former chairman and chief executive of Wellcome, as chairman-designate of the planned nuclear holding company. The company will absorb much of Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear and is intended to be privatised by next summer.

The appointment of Mr Robb, who is Scottish, is in line with the Government's aim of appeasing Scottish Nuclear, which has been vehemently opposed to a merger with Nuclear Electric. It is thought that John Collier and James Hann, respectively chairmen of Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear, will be appointed deputy chairmen.

The Department of Trade and Industry refused to say how much Mr Robb will be paid or how many days a week he will be employed. He starts immediately as a consultant to the DTI while the company is being set up.

Mr Robb, who will now have to postpone his passions for golf, gardening and horse racing, resigned from Wellcome in March with a pounds 2m payoff after the pounds 9bn takeover of the company by the rival drugs business Glaxo.

After six years at the pharmaceuticals company, he left with pounds 950,000, representing two years' salary. In addition, shares and options netted him pounds 1.3m.

Mr Robb joined Wellcome in March 1989 as deputy chief executive. He had previously been with Beecham for 22 years, as managing director since 1988.

In 1990, he became chief executive and took over as chairman in 1993.

In the five years he ran the company, operating margins improved more than 10 percentage points to 31.5 per cent and sales of Zovirax, Wellcome's top-selling drug, continued to rise despite its age.

He remains a non-executive director of Allied Domecq, the drinks company, and De La Rue, the bank note printer.

More than anyone, Mr Robb has been credited with injecting a greater sense of commercialism into Wellcome.