By Sophie Sassard
LONDON Jan 22 (Reuters) - Senior Citigroup banker Philip Robert-Tissot was named head of the UK's Takeover Panel, putting the seasoned executive in a key position to decide the outcome of acquisitions and influence policy in the area.
His appointment as director general comes at a less contentious moment for the Panel than when one of his predecessors had to withdraw because of his role in advising U.S. foods group Kraft in its controversial takeover of Cadbury.
Yet the high-profile post in London's financial sector could put Robert-Tissot, 51, in a sensitive position given he will be on a two-year secondment from Citi, where his colleagues could yet find themselves advising on a politically or commercially sensitive bid requiring Panel adjudication.
Robert-Tissot, who made no public comment on his appointment which takes effect on April 1, succeeds Robert Gillespie, a senior M&A banker at advisory boutique Evercore Partners, who had been in the role since September 2010.
The Panel, which administers Britain's code on takeovers and regulates deals to ensure fair treatment for investors, adopted tougher rules in 2011 designed to tip the balance of power back towards acquisition targets.
That move came in response to the acquisition of chocolate maker Cadbury by Kraft, which sparked public anger after the U.S. buyer reversed a promise to keep a plant open.
The revised rules for instance gave bidders less time to decide on a bid to avoid a UK company being under siege from a predator for months. Another change was that hostile bidders had to disclose what they paid their bankers.
Gillespie had taken the post after Philip Remnant was appointed on a temporary basis from Credit Suisse, after the withdrawal of the planned new head, Lazard's Peter Kiernan, following criticism by the Panel of Lazard and its client Kraft over the Cadbury deal.
Robert-Tissot is chairman of Europe, Middle East and Africa Mergers and Acquisitions at Citigroup.
"Philip is ... diplomatic and has a great, dry sense of humour," said a colleague who asked not to be named of 20 years' standing from Citi and from Schroders, where Robert-Tissot worked from 1989 to 1996.
"But he is not afraid to speak up and would have the courage to amend some of the new (takeover code) rules if he judged them inadequate".
Robert-Tissot became a managing director at Citi when the U.S.-based bank acquired Schroders' investment banking business in 2000.