Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist who coined the BRIC moniker, is joining the U.K. government to lead its effort to devolve more power to cities.
O’Neill, 58, will be commercial secretary for city devolution and infrastructure for the Treasury, the government said on its website Thursday. The position will be unpaid. O’Neill was also made a member of the House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament.
The move comes as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne promotes his “Northern Powerhouse,” a policy aimed at investing in the infrastructure of northern cities to boost their economies. In his first speech since the Conservatives were re-elected, Osborne announced “sweeping devolution” for English cities, including allowing Manchester to elect a mayor in 2017 with powers over transport, housing, planning and policing.
“The old model of trying to run everything in our country from the center of London is broken,” Osborne said in Manchester.
Raised near Manchester and a lifelong fan of Manchester United Football Club, O’Neill published a report last year calling for the U.K. economy to be made less reliant on London.
He is best known for his 2001 creation of the BRIC investing strategy as he bound Brazil, Russia, India and China into a group of emerging markets set to increasingly influence the world economy.
O’Neill joined Goldman Sachs in 1995, becoming head of economics in 2001 and then chairman of its asset-management arm in 2010 before stepping down two years ago. He was seen as a potential candidate to replace Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England in 2012 although he subsequently said he didn’t apply.
The hiring completes the formation of Osborne’s Treasury team following the May 7 election, which saw the Conservatives ditch their Liberal Democrat coalition partners after gaining a surprise majority.
Like O’Neill, several officials have experience of the City of London, as the U.K.’s financial hub is known. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands is a former trader, while City Minister Harriet Baldwin previously worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. Financial Secretary David Gauke is a one-time City solicitor.
O’Neill has also advised the government’s education department and was appointed last year by Prime Minister David Cameron to probe the increasing resistance to antibiotics. Spending as much as $37 billion over a decade could revitalize the pipeline of major breakthrough drugs, he said in a report published on Thursday. He is also a former contributor to Bloomberg View.
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