Freeman goes straight in at number one on this list because, to put it bluntly, the fate of the supermarket giants, smaller retailers and, for that matter, a lot of suppliers lies in his hands.

He is heading the Competition Commission's inquiry into the grocery industry - the third in the past seven years - and will be centre of attention in February next year when it finally (and belatedly) publishes its report.

The inquiry, and the publication of his Emerging Thinking, has put the 58-year-old reluctantly into the public glare. He claims he tries to emulate the governor of the Bank of England in his approach to work by being professionally boring, "an excellent precept for an administrator". Freeman, a law graduate from Trinity College Cambridge and a barrister at law firm Simmons & Simmons, is a stickler for fair play and his scrutiny of the grocery industry is likely to leave no stone unturned. As the slipping deadline of the publication of the Commission's findings suggests, he is not a man who will be rushed. He has also made it clear that he will focus on competition issues, and not carry the flag for small companies or enter a debate over the effectiveness of the supermarkets. "We are not the commission for small businesses or the commission for small producers," he said at the start of the year, prompting some in the industry to predict his report will lead to another toothless outcome.

Yet Freeman has begun to flex his muscles, indicating that he won't be quite the pushover for the likes of Leahy, King, Bond that was first thought. The Commission has already wielded its statutory powers by slapping Section 109 notices (which carry a £30,000 fine) on a number of trade associations, such as the FDF and Dairy UK, in a bid to uncover the identities of suppliers who claim to have been mistreated by the big four, and establish whether the so-called waterbed effect exists. It has also indicated that more Section 109s are imminent.

Ultimately, the Commission's report is expected to fall well short of the demands from smaller retailers and suppliers to curb the power of the multiples but it is by no means a foregone conclusion. Some change or compromise is surely inevitable.