Mark Russell has been appointed head of the Shareholder Executive, giving him a crucial role in the impending privatisations of Royal Mail and Britain’s stake in Urenco, the nuclear fuel processor.

Mr Russell, a former corporate financier, has been acting chief executive since February when his predecessor, Stephen Lovegrove, became permanent secretary at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The business department said Mr Russell was appointed after an open competition.

The Shareholder Executive manages the government’s stakes in more than 20 businesses. The appointment comes at a critical juncture for the coalition’s plans to sell some of the state’s most valuable remaining assets.

Mr Russell has been closely involved in preparations to begin the privatisation of Royal Mail, thought to be worth up to £3bn. A stock market float may take place towards the end of this year.

Other assets are also on the block, including the UK’s one-third stake in Urenco, which could yield £3bn. Other candidates could include the Land Registry, the Ordnance Survey and the Royal Mint.

Mr Russell joined the Shareholder Executive in 2004, after a career in corporate finance. He was a partner at KPMG, the consultancy.

The new chief led the business department’s involvement in last year’s abortive merger talks between BAE Systems and EADS. He is also a non-executive director of London and Continental Railways, a government-owned building company, and Eurostar International.

Martin Donnelly, permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “Mark’s extensive business experience and in-depth knowledge of regulated industries, combined with a record of delivery within government, equips him to deliver a radical and challenging programme of reform.”

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