The Business On... Ed Richards, Chief executive, Ofcom

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The Independent Online

The man of the moment?

Indeed: Vince Cable's decision yesterday to refer News Corp's bid for full control of Sky to Ofcom puts Mr Richards at the centre of what is fast turning into a political and commercial maelstrom.

What will he do?

You will have to wait until the end of the year to find out. But he would not be human if he was not tempted to stick a giant spanner in the works. Ofcom and Sky have been at daggers drawn for as long as anyone can remember, and one imagines Mr Richards is no friend of the Murdochs.

What do you mean?

He has always been very close to New Labour, on whom the Murdoch press turned at the election, and he had stints as an adviser to both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. In addition, he spent years at the BBC, which has an ongoing spat with the Murdochs (though one former director-general, Greg Dyke, described him as a "jumped-up Millbank oik").

So News Corp has had it?

Well not necessarily. Revenge might be fun, but those who know Mr Richards pay tribute to his professionalism, and he has spent years working to ensure that he is seen as a politically impartial Ofcom boss. Besides, the rules on media ownership are far from clear cut.

So he might clear the deal?

If he thinks it is the right thing to do – and if anyone can get to the bottom of this business, the famously brainy Mr Richards can. He will also be aware this might be one of Ofcom's final set-piece policy interventions – the Coalition Government is planning to strip it of many of its core duties.

So what does he do when he is off duty?

He is a sports freak. One of the reasons the Tories were so doubtful about Mr Richards' political impartiality was that he spent years playing football for a team called Demon Eyes. With the Tory election posters of 1997 that sought to demonise Tony Blair in mind, the team was full of New Labour bigwigs, from Ed Balls to James Purnell.