Pressure on UBS Chairman to step down


Swiss investment bank UBS has been sounding out some of Europe’s top bankers to join its board of directors and ultimately replace the Swiss bank’s long-serving chairman Marcel Ospel.

The search reflects the mounting pressure on Mr Ospel to step down, when the bank slumped to a full-year loss last year after write-downs linked to the US sub-prime mortgage market

The executives contacted by headhunters acting for the bank include Bob Diamond, president of Barclays, Michael Cohrs, head of global banking at Deutsche Bank and John Studzinski, senior managing director at Blackstone. However, it is understood that each executive rejected the offer.

UBS announced yesterday that Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Italian carmaker Fiat, will take over as non-executive vice-chairman. In a concession to investors, the bank also said all directors, including Mr Ospel, would be put up for re-election annually rather than once every 3 years.

Yesterday, Mr Ospel said the board had asked him to serve for another 12 months but he would not commit himself further.

The move raises the prospect that Mr Ospel, a mercurial strategist who masterminded the mergers that made UBS a force in global banking, could step down as early as April next year. However, the appointment of Mr Marchionne, who has declared he has no plans to succeed Mr Ospel, prolongs the uncertainty about the banka��s long-term leadership.

UBS is Europe’s biggest victim of the credit squeeze by far with almost $18 billion (A?9.1 billion) in sub-prime write-downs.

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