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Exclusive: ShEx Boss In DECC Move

(c) Sky News 2013

The man responsible for stewarding tens of billions of pounds-worth of state-owned assets and who oversaw the sale of the Government’s stakes in the Tote and British Energy is to step down from his role.

I can reveal that the departure of Stephen Lovegrove, chief executive of the Shareholder Executive, will be announced in the coming days. He is quitting to become the new permanent secretary of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), one of the most senior posts in the civil service.

Mr Lovegrove’s appointment will be closely-watched in Whitehall, since it follows a decision in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to veto the previous choice for the permanent secretary role at DECC. Mr Cameron is understood to have blocked climate change expert David Kennedy despite his appointment having the support of Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat MP who is Secretary of State.

Mr Lovegrove is among the most widely-respected figures in Whitehall. He was recognised in the New Year's honours list in and was awarded a Companion of the Bath in acknowledgement of his role in the sale of the Government’s stake in British Energy and the ongoing preparations for the privatisation of Royal Mail, which is expected to take place through a stock market listing later this year.

Mr Davey is understood to have developed a strong working relationship with Mr Lovegrove during his stint as the minister responsible for the state-owned postal operator.

In his new role, Mr Lovegrove is set to be heavily-involved in Government plans to sell the state's one-third stake in Urenco, the nuclear fuel processor. Britain owns an equal stake with the Dutch government and two large German utilities and a sale is likely in the next couple of years.

During more than eight years at ShEx, Mr Lovegrove was instrumental in the professionalization in the way the Government managed publicly-owned assets, creating a separate wing to oversee the state’s vast property portfolio. He was also responsible for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, a non-departmental public body established in 2004.

One of the most significant transactions during his time at ShEx came two years ago when the Government finally sold the Tote, the bookmaker, more than decades after the company’s privatisation was originally signalled.

Mr Lovegrove, a former investment banker with Deutsche Bank (Xetra: 514000 - news) , also sits on the board of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and is a director-general of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), one of the ministries top management posts.

It was unclear on Sunday who would replace Mr Lovegrove at ShEx, although insiders pointed to Mark Russell, his deputy, as an obvious candidate for the job. Mr Russell was one of the key figures who represented the Government during last year’s aborted merger discussions between BAE Systems (LSE: BA.L - news) , the defence contractor, and EADS (Paris: NL0000235190 - news) , the European defence and aerospace group.

BIS and DECC both declined to comment, while Mr Lovegrove could not be reached for comment on Sunday.