Former Unilever veteran Banga lined up to lead government agency UKGI

Business

A former Unilever executive is being lined up to take the helm of the Whitehall agency which oversees taxpayers’ interests in businesses including the Post Office, NatWest Group and Channel 4.

Sky News has learnt that Vindi Banga, who sits on the board of GlaxoSmithKline and chairs the cancer charity Marie Curie, is expected to replace Robert Swannell as chairman of UK government Investments (UKGI).

Mr Banga, who has also been a director of Marks & Spencer, is a prominent City figure who now also works as a partner at Clayton Dubilier & Rice, the buyout firm, which is among the bidders battling to buy Wm Morrison, the supermarket chain.

One City insider said his appointment at UKGI could be announced shortly.

His arrival at the government-owned company will come as a battle looms over the future of Channel 4, the state-owned broadcaster.

Ministers have signalled their desire to privatise it as soon as next year, triggering protests from Channel 4 board members.

UKGI also oversees taxpayers’ interest in NatWest, which could return to majority private ownership in the next 12 months under government plans to reduce its stake.

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Odgers Berndtson, the headhunter, has overseen the search for Mr Swannell’s successor.

Mr Swannell, who himself was chairman of M&S for several years, has chaired UKGI and its predecessor body since 2014.

The appointment of his replacement will be signed off by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor.

A panel which includes Baroness Vadera, the former Treasury minister who now chairs Prudential, is understood to have interviewed the shortlisted candidates.

The UKGI chairmanship pays an annual fee of £40,000.

UKGI also oversees the British Business Bank, the government’s stake in Urenco, the uranium processor, and The Royal Mint.

The agency has played a significant role in Whitehall’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with its team of corporate financiers providing advice to ministers about how to support crisis-hit industries such as steel.

UKGI was formed in 2016 from the merger of the Shareholder Executive and UK Financial Investments, which was set up during the 2008 banking crisis to hold the public’s stakes in Britain’s bailed-out banks.

A UKGI spokesman referred enquiries to the Treasury, which has been contacted for comment.

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