Former Financial Times Group chief executive odds-on to be named BBC Trust chairwoman

 

ARTS CORRESPONDENT

A former chief executive of the Financial Times Group, Rona Fairhead, is odds-on to become the first woman to permanently chair the BBC Trust after it emerged she was the Government's pick to replace Chris Patten.

A senior Whitehall source revealed that Ms Fairhead was all but certain to take the £110,000 job, barring a major upset or being blocked by MPs.

The appointment will not be regarded as politically neutral as she is an independent adviser to the Cabinet Office. Her husband, Tom, was a Conservative councillor for Kensington and Chelsea from 1994 until he retired in 2010.

Under the terms of the BBC Royal Charter, the appointment of the BBC Trust's chair and members is made by the Queen on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid, through the Prime Minister.

Ms Fairhead, who turned 53 on Thursday, will go in front of the Commons' Culture Select Committee on 9 September for pre-appointment scrutiny and will then be recommended by the Government. Other rumoured candidates to chair the governing body included David Dimbleby, Sir Howard Stringer and Lord Coe, who ruled himself out last month.

Diane Coyle, economist and former adviser to the Treasury, has been acting trust chairman since Lord Patten left the role in May. He had held the post for three years but resigned on medical advice following major heart surgery.His time in the job was turbulent, with the Jimmy Savile scandal and a row over senior-staff payoffs. In 2012, his choice of director-general, George Entwistle, left after just 54 days.

Ms Fairhead will face her first major test as chair when negotiations on the BBC's Royal Charter begin after the general election. It is believed the BBC Trust will face reform as part of the process.

She has a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School and was chief financial officer for FTSE 100 giant Pearson from 2002 to 2006. She then ran the company's Financial Times Group until last year.

Ms Fairhead was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012, and this year was appointed a British Business Ambassador.

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