UniCredit's Mustier to Step Down as CEO Over Strategy Rift -- 2nd Update
By Giovanni Legorano
ROME -- UniCredit Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier will step
down in April over a rift with the board over future strategy at
Italy's second largest lender.
Mr. Mustier, one of the best known figures in European finance,
said it had become clear in recent months that the core pillars of
his strategy for the bank "no longer correspond to the board's
current thinking." He said he had therefore decided to retire from
the bank at the end of his term in April 2021.
Over four and half years, Mr. Mustier succeeded in strengthening
UniCredit, making it leaner and more profitable.
This year, pressure mounted on him to do deals, something he had
ruled out, after Italian rival Intesa Sanpaolo SpA took over UBI
Banca SpA, overtaking UniCredit as Italy's largest bank by assets
in the process.
He had chosen instead to concentrate on share buybacks and
dividend increases, part of a four-year plan.
Mr. Mustier always has said publicly the bank preferred to use
capital in this way rather than buying other European or Italian
Last year the bank was the subject of media speculation over a
possible tie-up with troubled German lender Commerzbank AG or
France's Société Générale SA.
UniCredit also has been widely touted as the main potential
buyer of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, Italy's perennial
banking trouble spot, which was nationalized in 2017. The
government must sell it by the beginning of 2022 to meet the
conditions set by the European Union to authorize the
Mr. Mustier had set a host of strict conditions to absorb Monte
dei Paschi, according to a person familiar with the matter. In
turn, Italy's Treasury has been working on ways to sweeten a deal
for a suitor, including tax benefits boosting the capital of the
The bank said Mr. Mustier will remain in charge of the bank
either until the end of his mandate or until a successor is
Since joining UniCredit in mid-2016, Mr. Mustier cleaned up the
balance sheet of the bank, which was drowning in bad loans, some of
them a hangover from the financial crisis. He launched a EUR13
billion capital increase and sold several assets.
Mr. Mustier also had planned to separate the riskier domestic
assets of the bank from its foreign assets, which include large
businesses in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe.
That plan had caused friction with the board after it was
unveiled a year ago, although Mr. Mustier recently had said it was
put on hold because the large bond-buying program of the European
Central Bank had made it less urgent.
Earlier this year, Mr. Mustier was one of the final two
candidates in the running to become chief executive of HSBC
Holdings PLC, according to people familiar with the matter, before
he withdrew from the talks. He also has been linked with the top
jobs at other European lenders, including Deutsche Bank AG.
Write to Giovanni Legorano at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 30, 2020 17:51 ET (22:51 GMT)
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