Coombe linked to merged tax body

During his review of the departments, Gus O’Donnell, permanent secretary to the Treasury, called on the expertise of the private sector to advise him on the success and failure rates of large-scale mergers.

John Coombe (right), chief financial officer of drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, was one. He would fit all the requirements having supervised a huge merger. He also has the required experience as well as the respect of the business world. ‘John is 60 next year so you would expect him to retire, but we have not heard anything specific on that so far,’ a spokesman for GSK said.

O’Donnell also called on the help of David Varney, chairman of mobile phone giant mmo2. Martin Taylor, the former chairman of WH Smith, who is currently in retirement, also provided advice. The 52-year-old former chief executive of Barclays may relish the challenge. Other possibilities include Sir Christopher Gent, former Vodafone chief executive.

The new chief is likely to have to accept a huge pay cut, as the salary will be in the region of £250,000. But the prestige of overseeing the biggest Whitehall shake up for two centuries could sway the thinking of those executives looking for a new challenge.

John Coombe refused to comment. The closing date is for the appointment is the 8 April.

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