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Field narrows for next Bank of England chief

By David Milliken and Stephen Mangan

LONDON (Reuters) - UK finance minister George Osborne now faces a narrower field from which to pick the Bank of England's next governor, after two high-profile contenders decided not to apply.

Deputy Governor Paul Tucker, a long-time central banker, appears the best-placed candidate.

The former head of the British civil service, Gus O'Donnell, and Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill - best known for coining the 'BRICs' acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China - both said they were not interested in the job.

The next BoE governor will be Britain's most powerful unelected public figure, responsible for setting monetary policy as well as regulating the City of London following a shake-up of financial supervision after the 2008-09 crisis.

"You need a governor who desperately wants the job and is willing to serve eight years," O'Donnell, 60, was quoted as saying in the Financial Times newspaper. O'Neill too confirmed to Reuters that he would not apply for the role.

The deadline for applications passed on Monday morning. It was not clear who had applied, but as well as Tucker, 54, the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Adair Turner, 57, what expected to have thrown his hat in.

Osborne will select the next governor before the end of the year, after short-listed candidates are interviewed by two senior civil servants and the chairman of the BoE's supervisory board. King retires on June 30 next year.

Neither the FSA nor the BoE would reveal whether Turner or Tucker had applied, and nor would the finance ministry comment on applications for the job, which currently pays an annual salary of just over 300,000 pounds ($486,000).

But two British bookmakers, Ladbrokes and William Hill , now price career central banker Tucker, as evens to succeed King - implying a 50 percent chance that he will get the top job. Turner is close behind, priced at 3/1 by Ladbrokes and 5/2 by William Hill. As recently as Saturday, Ladbrokes had O'Donnell priced as favourite.

TUCKER FAVOURITE

Tucker, who is responsible for financial stability at the Bank and also sits on its rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee, had long been seen as a strong candidate to succeed King and has close links to London's financial industry.

But his chances took a knock in July when the BoE came under fire from lawmakers for its failure to suspect back in 2008 that banks had been rigging the LIBOR interbank interest rate.

Tucker was the BoE's executive director for markets at that point, and was in close contact with Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, who later resigned over the scandal.

However, a subsequent report by lawmakers broadly supported Tucker, and business minister Vince Cable said last month that the LIBOR probe had not undermined Tucker's chances.

Turner, a former management consultant, took over as FSA chairman at the height of the financial crisis, and has heavily criticized banks' past practices. But he lacks significant experience of monetary policy.

Other candidates who have been mentioned are Canada's central bank governor, Mark Carney - despite his having ruled himself out - John Vickers, a former BoE chief economist who led a government review into banking reform, and Terry Burns, chairman of Santander's British unit.

Australian central bank chief Glenn Stevens was approached too, according to one British newspaper on Sunday, but an Australian source with direct knowledge of the situation subsequently denied this to Reuters.

($1 = 0.6176 British pounds)

(Additional reporting by Cecile Lefort and Morag MacKinnon in Sydney. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

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