Hoon played Cupid to BBC caretaker boss

Mark Byford, the man charged with safeguarding BBC independence, has admitted to a startling obligation: he owes Geoff Hoon his wife.

It was, it seems, Mr Hoon's car that helped secure the affections of Mr Byford's wife, Helen, one winter night in the late 1970s in Leeds.

Fate threw the threesome together at a St Valentine's night disco, according to a profile of the new BBC boss in The Review, the University of Leeds magazine.

"It was snowing, and a young law lecturer called Geoff Hoon agreed to loan Mark his car to drive Hilary home and, with luck, to impress her," it records.

"She became my wife straight after university, and we now have five wonderful kids," Mr Byford, now 45, told his alma mater.

"We meet professionally now, and he still jokes that I owe him three quid for the car loan," adds Mr Byford, known to his friends as "Tigger".

Issue 6 of The Review, which appeared in 1999, even published a picture of the acting director general of the BBC with the Secretary of State for Defence.

The connection explains a remark posted on the BBC's internal message board in the wake of his appointment to replace Greg Dyke: "Looks like Hoon's close friend Mark Byford will take over. How very handy for New Labour."

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