Italy’s Unicredit taps Ghizzoni as CEO to replace ousted Alessandro Profumo

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Italy’s Unicredit taps Ghizzoni as CEO

ROME — Unicredit SpA named its No. 2 Federico Ghizzoni as chief executive on Thursday to replace Alessandro Profumo, ousted in a politicized battle sparked by Libya’s increased share in Italy’s biggest bank.

Ghizzoni, 54, had been one of four deputy chief executives under Profumo, responsible for the bank’s operations in central and eastern Europe.

He was unanimously chosen CEO at a board meeting Thursday in Warsaw, Unicredit said.

“It was a stressful day,” Ghizzoni told reporters as he emerged from the meeting. But he said the future looked bright and that Unicredit remained strong.

“I think we have to keep going on as we have done so far. I think that the group is very strong,” he said. “We need to work more and more as a team. It’s a lot of responsibility but also a lot of trust.”

Profumo handed in his resignation after losing a boardroom battle for his job.

Profumo’s position was weakened by shareholder doubts, most vocally from members of the right-wing Northern League, an Italian government coalition party which participates in one of the foundations that is a Unicredit shareholder. The xenophobic League complained after Libya increased its stake in the bank in several transactions this summer.

A Libyan sovereign fund took a 2.5 percent stake, which on top of the Libyan Central Bank’s nearly 5-percent gives the Libyan government more than 7 percent control in the bank. There remains a question as to whether the two are separate, a significant point because Unicredit rules prevent a shareholder from exercising voting rights over 5 percent, even if its share is higher.

Libya’s central bank chief, Farhat Omar Bengdara, said the bank would hold firm at its current level.

“We’re satisfied by Ghizzoni’s nomination and we won’t increase our capital in Unicredit and we will remain at the current level,” the ANSA news agency quoted Bengdara as saying as he left the Warsaw meeting.

Ghizzoni has worked for the bank since 1980, holding positions in Singapore, Britain, Turkey and Poland. He was named Unicredit’s deputy chief executive in August.

Board chairman Dieter Rampl said Ghizzoni’s appointment underscored the bank’s continued commitment to central and eastern Europe, which it views as growth areas.

Unicredit shares closed up 1.74 percent at euro1.873.

Scislowska reported from Warsaw. Associated Press reporter Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw.

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