Twenty-four senior regeneration executives from around the UK are competing to become chief executive of the new Liverpool super-agency set to be launched next spring.
However, the man tipped as the favourite to land the job of running the enlarged company, Jim Gill, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, refused to either confirm or deny whether he is among the 24 applicants.
There is growing speculation in the city that Gill will not seek to take on the new role, opting to let fresh blood in and, instead, retire in around two years' time when he will be 60. He has been chief executive of Liverpool Vision since 2001, shortly after its creation.
The deadline for applications passed in mid-August, following a national advertising campaign run by recruitment consultants Gatenby Sanderson.
The new company is being created by the merger of Liverpool Land Development Company, a publicly funded property investment agency for four outlying areas of the city, Liverpool Vision, the public-private urban regeneration company for the city centre, and enterprise support vehicle Business Liverpool. Council leader Warren Bradley ordered the merger at the start of this year in response to complaints about confusion among businesses over the city's regeneration support structure.
An independent, private-sector chairman of the new agency will be named in October. The chairman will oversee the process of drawing up the long list of contenders for the chief executive's job. The chief executive is expected to be in place by New Year 2008, ahead of the company going live from April 2008.
Among the contenders known to have applied is Ian Hassall, chief executive of Liverpool Land Development Company since June, when David Waugh resigned.
Mike Taylor, chief executive of Business Liverpool, is believed to be content vying for a directorship running the enterprise arm of the new company.
The chairman must also choose a name for the new company. It has been nicknamed Liverpool plc but it cannot, as a private entity, take the name of a publicly listed company.
The company's business plan is currently being drawn up by the transitional board, headed by Sir Joe Dwyer, chairman of Liverpool Vision, and an advisory 'management group', chaired by Gill.
Liverpool-based economic consultants Amion Consulting are advising the board on the business plan.
The company will effectively be owned and controlled by three partners: Liverpool City Council, the North West Development Agency, and English Partnerships. It will, via these shareholders, have the power to hold land and directly finance development if deemed necessary to break market deadlock.
The business plan will be informed by two major reports which have been conducted in recent months and are being drafted ahead of publication, probably in October.
The first report was written by DTZ and maps the 'strategic physical investment framework' for Liverpool in the coming years. It is expected to suggest increased focus on the universities' place in the city economy, as well as pushing investment along the waterfront and new commercial district around Pall Mall and Old Hall Street.
Economic benchmarking experts BAK Basel and Cambridge Econometrics conducted the second report. It compares Liverpool to other similarly sized and positioned cities across the UK and Europe to analyse its strengths and weaknesses. It is expected to update evidence into Liverpool's key markets – professional services, universities, tourism – and replace the last city centre business strategy produced eight years ago when Liverpool Vision was formed.
Law firm Eversheds has been retained to undertake the legal work to set up the new company.