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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 10:19 GMT
Rock recovery is Sandler's goal
By Simon Atkinson
Business Reporter, BBC News

Ron Sandler
Ron Sandler says it will be "business as usual" at the bank

Talking about his new role as the executive chairman of the soon-to-be nationalised Northern Rock, Ron Sandler adopted the kind of terminology used by football managers taking over a team facing a relegation dogfight.

After being introduced to the press conference by the chancellor, Zimbabwe-born Mr Sandler talked of "rolling up sleeves", and "getting on with the job" at the Newcastle-based firm.

It was a position, he said, that was "exciting" as well as being "full of challenges".

The comments sounded not unlike those made after another recent high-profile managerial appointment on Tyneside.

So far though, that man, Kevin Keegan, has not delivered the turnaround which the Geordie faithful had hoped for at St James' Park.

Certainly the chancellor and prime minister will be hoping for a more promising start from Mr Sandler as he settles into the hot seat as executive chairman.

Trouble-shooter reputation

When he arrives in Newcastle on Monday, Mr Sandler will not be expecting an army of black-and-white clad fans chanting his name.

He has a reputation for taking on difficult issues. He is someone who demands respect and can deal with difficult people
Justin Urquhart Stewart
Seven Asset Management

But there will be 6,000 employees of the bank, one of the region's largest employers, relying heavily on him to keep them in work and reinvigorate a great North East institution.

The 55-year-old certainly has a reputation as a trouble-shooter, who has taken on tough jobs and succeeded.

And as with the return the of Keegan to Tyneside, the chairman (or in this case, the Prime Minister) has called on Mr Sandler before.

In 2001, the then Chancellor appointed him to oversee a review of the UK's long-term savings industry.

It's easy to knock the government but they didn't cause this problem
Simon, London

It resulted in developing so-called stakeholder pension and investment products that were intended to help those on lower incomes save for retirement.

(In the mind of Gordon Brown you suspect this is somewhat akin to qualifying for the Champions League).

Mr Sandler's conclusions - including finding fault with how complicated products often have high charges and relatively poor returns - won him respect for his willingness to stand up to the financial services industry.


Earlier in his career, as Lloyd's of London chief executive, Mr Sandler earned plaudits for helping to bring the insurance market back from the brink of collapse in the 1990s.

Michael Owen celebrates a goal in his Northern Rock-sponsored Newcastle shirt
Northern Rock plays a big part in North East life.

Later he went to NatWest where, in 1999, he was admired for his efforts to fend off a bid from Royal Bank of Scotland, even though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

Since the 2002 Sandler review its author, holder of a German passport, has been chairman at insurance firm Paternoster and financial education charity Pfeg among others.

And while education at Cambridge and Stanford doesn't fit in with the average football man's CV, his hobbies certainly do: he is known as being keen on poker, golf and fishing.

His salary - at 90,000 a month - is Premier League standard too.

Meanwhile his references are not bad either.

"He has a reputation for taking on difficult issues. He is someone who demands respect and can deal with difficult people," says Justin Urquhart Stewart of Seven Asset Management.

"At Northern Rock, he will have to fight battles like Napoleon - on several fronts at the same time. And like Napoleon, he will probably win."

That, for all those associated with Northern Rock, and a very embarrassed government, is the goal.

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