Last updated: September 30, 2013 12:26 am

Intesa CEO quits after clash with shareholders

Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s largest retail bank, has appointed longstanding manager Carlo Messina as chief executive after Enrico Cucchiani resigned late on Sunday following a clash with Italian shareholders.

“Cucchiani has stepped down as managing director and CEO with immediate effect,” Intesa said in a statement at the end of emergency supervisory and management board meetings.

Mr Cucchiani, a former Allianz executive who had been at Intesa for just 21 months, was forced out of his job after clashing with traditional Italian shareholders at Italian banking foundations who were unhappy about the bank’s performance during his tenure.

People familiar with the foundations cited Mr Cucchiani’s lack of retail banking experience and his failure in his two years’ as chief executive to come up with a strategy to help the bank weather the effect of a deep two-year-old recession.

Intesa’s net income fell 75 per cent in the second quarter from a year ago to €116m. Like all Italian banks, Intesa has also faced a surge in non-performing loans.

Mr Messina, formerly Intesa’s general manager who has been at the bank for nearly 20 years, is seen as an experienced retail banker. He met several of Intesa Sanpaolo’s largest Italian shareholders in the past week, said a person with direct knowledge of the meetings.

A person close to Mr Cucchiani denied he had made strategic failures and said his market focused management style had clashed with traditional Italian shareholders and the bank’s octogenarian chairman Giovanni Bazoli who favour so-called Italian relationship capitalism.

The resignation of Mr Cucchiani opens a turbulent week for corporate Italy which is in the throes of a wide-reaching shake up prompted by two years of recession and a decade of economic stagnation.

His exit is expected to be followed by the resignation of Franco Bernabè, chief executive of Italy’s telecoms operator Telecom Italia, who has also clashed with his core Italian shareholders.

Mr Bernabè plans to hand in his resignation before a board meeting on October 3, having failed to garner enough support from the board for a capital increase at the indebted group, said a person with direct access to Mr Bernabè.

Mr Bernabè proved unable to turn round Telecom Italia’s share price which has fallen 50 per cent in the past five years.

A majority stake in Telecom Italia’s holding company was last week sold to Spanish rival Telefónica. Telco’s Italian shareholders – Mediobanca, Generali and Intesa Sanpaolo – were seeking an exit after having been forced to make writedowns on their stakes.

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