UniCredit to Pick Andrea Orcel as New CEO--3rd Update
By Giovanni Legorano and Patricia Kowsmann
Andrea Orcel, one of Europe's best-known bankers, has been
picked to lead Italy's UniCredit SpA, according to a person
familiar with the process, marking a surprise comeback amid his
continuing legal fight with Spanish lender Banco Santander SA.
The pick, which still needs to be approved by the board, ends a
monthslong search during which the bank scrambled to find a
replacement for Frenchman Jean Pierre Mustier, who in November said
he would step down after a rift with the board over future
For Mr. Orcel, the appointment represents a return following a
very public clash with Santander and its powerful executive
chairman, Ana Botin, who in 2018 offered Mr. Orcel the CEO post
only to cancel it months later. Mr. Orcel is suing the bank for
EUR100 million, equivalent of $121 million.
Mr. Orcel had been keen on getting the UniCredit job, flying
frequently to Italy from London over the past weeks to lobby for
the position, according to people familiar with the situation.
Mr. Orcel couldn't be reached for comment. A UniCredit spokesman
declined to comment.
Mr. Orcel would arrive at a key time for UniCredit.
The coronavirus pandemic and a prolonged period of negative
interest-rates are forcing banks in Europe to take a close look at
their strategies. Last year, Italian rival Intesa Sanpaolo SpA took
over UBI Banca SpA, overtaking UniCredit as Italy's largest bank by
assets in the process.
UniCredit's board is open to bulk up through acquisitions,
including by potentially acquiring Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena
SpA, Italy's perennial banking trouble spot, which was nationalized
in 2017 and needs to be reprivatized by next year. Mr. Mustier
resisted the idea. He also clashed with the board on a project he
defended to split the bank's domestic and foreign operations to
insulate its businesses in Germany from Italian-sovereign
Mr. Orcel's experience in deal making -- first at Bank of
America Merrill Lynch and then at UBS Group AG as head of
investment banking between 2012 and 2018, which would bode well if
UniCredit wants to explore mergers.
But the Italian would arrive with some baggage.
In 2018, Mr. Orcel left UBS after being offered the CEO post by
Ms. Botin. But the deal fell through months later after Santander
said it couldn't justify his EUR50 million-plus price tag, which
included compensating him for shares he would leave behind at
Furious, Mr. Orcel sued Santander for EUR100 million in damages,
alleging the bank offered him a contract and broke it. It left his
close professional relationship with Ms. Botín in tatters. At some
point, Mr. Orcel told Santander's board secretary that Santander's
U-turn "destroyed my career, my reputation."
On the job, Mr. Orcel had a reputation of being abrasive and
sometimes harsh with staff, according to people familiar with his
style. He also lacks experience running a bank with retail and
But he ticks other boxes: he is Italian but has international
experience and can operate at ease in European financial capitals
from London to Frankfurt. His investment-banking experience could
also come handy as it sets sight on potential takeover
UniCredit sounded out other candidates for the job, but given it
was set on an Italian, its list of high-profile names with the
right experience was relatively limited.
Another front-runner was Fabio Gallia, a former board member at
French giant lender BNP Paribas and head of the French bank's
Italian branch. Mr. Gallia held other positions at different
companies and financial institutions, including Italian
government-controlled development bank Cassa Depositi e
Another candidate considered for the job is Flavio Valeri, the
former head of Deutsche Bank's Italian branch.
Write to Giovanni Legorano at email@example.com and
Patricia Kowsmann at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 26, 2021 12:45 ET (17:45 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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