Higher education will inherit one of industry's great communicators in September when Norman Askew becomes chair of the new company that will oversee the merger of Manchester University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.
Mr Askew unexpectedly resigned from his post as chief executive of British Nuclear Fuels earlier this year. He was brought in to BNFL to clean up a culture of cover-up and is credited with stabilising the company after a scandal over the falsifying of fuel records in 2000.
Said to have been known in Whitehall as "stormin' Norman", Mr Askew admits to being an impatient man. He has been described as hard-headed and straight-talking. He said his expertise in the management of change would stand him in good stead for the challenge ahead.
"A lot of good work has already been done ahead of the merger, but the key now will be to communicate the issues as widely as possible," he said.
Leading the combined universities would be very different from running a company, he conceded. But the need to develop strategies and goals while focusing people on the big objective have been familiar themes throughout his working life.
Sir Martin Harris, vice-chancellor of Manchester, said Mr Askew was highly regarded in industry and the City and had been successful in the engineering and energy sectors. "Norman Askew has a wealth of business experience and a successful track record of providing leadership to organisations facing new challenges," he said.
Mr Askew will play a key role in selecting the vice-chancellor of the newly merged institutions.
He was appointed deputy chairman of Kidde Group plc in February and will take over from Sir Nigel Rudd as chairman in 2004. He steps down from BNFL in July.