Ministers kick off hunt for next CMA chief as Coscelli steps down

Ministers are facing pressure to avoid a leadership vacuum at the top of Britain’s competition watchdog as its chief executive prepares to bow out after six years at the helm.

Sky News has learnt that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is expected to confirm within days that Andrea Coscelli will not seek a further term in the job he has held since 2016.

The government is already hunting a permanent chairman for the body, with Jonathan Scott, its interim chair, recently having his term extended by the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng.

Kwasi Kwarteng

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng recently extended the term of the CMA’s interim chair

The CMA is one of Britain’s most important economic regulators, and has recently made headlines by intensifying pressure on America’s technology giants, including Meta, the owner of Facebook, and Apple.

Mr Coscelli was reappointed to the top job at the watchdog in March 2020, with his current term expiring in July next year.

He has played a pivotal role in shaping the CMA’s approach to significant mergers, including the aborted tie-up between Asda and J Sainsbury, which was abandoned in 2019.

Sources believe the search for his successor is likely to encompass a number of internal and external candidates.

Mr Coscelli is thought to have fallen out with the CMA’s most recent permanent chairman, Lord Tyrie, the former Conservative MP.

A CMA spokesman said: “It is public knowledge that Andrea Coscelli’s term ends in July 2022.”

Sainsbury's and Asda

Mr Coscelli has played a key role in the approach to mergers such as the aborted tie-up between Asda and Sainsbury’s

The extension of Mr Scott’s term as interim chair underlines the difficulty that ministers and senior civil servants have had in identifying candidates to run some of the UK’s most important economic regulators amid signs of their increasingly politicised nature.

Ofcom, the media regulator, Ofwat, the water authority, and the Financial Conduct Authority are all seeking new chairs.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.