The Business On... Sir David Cooksey, Chairman, UKFI

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The Independent Online

Friend of the banks?

Ah. You would be referring to yesterday's hearing of the Treasury Select Committee, where Sir David – who chairs UK Financial Investments, which oversees our investment in banks – said attempting to break up the state-owned RBS and state-controlled Lloyds Banking Group would hit the taxpayer in the pocket. It's basically what the bosses of both have been arguing, so they should be pleased.

Why is Sir David still busy, anyway?

Good question. This pioneer of the venture capital industry has made multiple fortunes, but even though he will be 71 in May, he seems to have little desire to slow down and spend time on his yacht Illyria. He has had a bewildering array of "wow" jobs.

Such as?

Well, in 2006, he was appointed by Gordon Brown to look at how the Government could better spend its £1.3bn health research budget. He's been a director of the Bank of England, chaired the Audit Commission and still chairs London & Continental Railways, the company that built the high-speed rail link from London to the Channel Tunnel. And they're just the most notable posts.

Presumably, he's had the odd bonus?

Now then. Sir David's entrepreneurial nous cannot really be faulted: his Advent Venture Partners has invested in more than 150 life science and technology companies worldwide. And anyway, it was UKFI chief executive Robin Budenberg who was defending bonuses, with the stock line that if the Government wants to sell the banks at a profit, they need to retain their "talent".

Does he have a point?

Well, yes. The taxpayer would get more if the banks were not broken up. But sometimes, the right thing to do isn't always the cheapest.

Any other business?

Well, Sir David has long said that he'd like the Government to have a better relationship with industry. Given the former engineer's track record, he'll keep pushing the mantra. The Adriatic islands he loves can wait.