Barclays opts for Canadian as new chief

Matt Barrett has left a colourful past to cross the Atlantic and join the high street giant

BARCLAYS BANK announced yesterday that it has plumped for Matt Barrett, the flamboyant Irish-Canadian chairman and chief executive of the Bank of Montreal to be its new chief executive on a salary, shares and options package worth pounds 6.3m in his first year.

Mr Barrett, a high school dropout from Kerry who rose from an inauspicious start as a junior bank teller in the Bank of Montreal's London branch to become chairman and chief executive of one of Canada's largest banks had decided to quit in February after his attempts to forge a merger with Royal Bank of Canada fell foul of Canadian anti-trust rules.

Although there are few doubts about his abilities as a banker or his aptitude for the Barclays job, he will have difficulty shedding the livewire image which dogged him in Canada and may ultimately have driven him out of this most conservative of countries.

His name was rarely out of the Canadian gossip columns on account of his recently estranged second wife Anne-Marie Sten - a glamorous former companion of Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi arms dealer. Ms Sten's naked full- frontal figure appears in glorious technicolour on the front cover of the latest issue of Frank Magazine, Canada's answer to Private Eye. Frank Magazine is available on the Internet to those of Barclays employees who care to take a look at what their new chief executive has left behind.

Canadian commentators say that so intense was the media interest in the 54-year-old Mr Barrett and his 43-year-old wife that he found it impossible to be taken seriously when he attempted to lobby the Canadian government about a merger with the Royal Bank of Canada last year.

After his previous marriage failed after 28 years, Mr Barrett, a tall, dashing individual with an unmistakably Irish sense of fun, had been described as the most eligible bachelor in Canada. His first marriage produced four children, one son and three daughters, now aged between 20 and 27.

When Mr Barrett and Ms Sten tied the knot two years ago at what was billed by the Canadian press as the society wedding of the year, Mr Barrett described the event as "a second chance of happiness with a fabulous woman whose heart was the size of a 747".

More recently, when he started turning up at society events unescorted, the tongues again began to wag.

The desire to put an end to the constant publicity was cited as one of the main reasons for his decision last February to leave the bank where he had worked for 37 years, that and the fact that he had invested so much time and energy in the merger and had no fall-back strategy when the deal collapsed.

Yesterday he said of his marriage: "We are separated. I am coming to London on my own. That is all there is to say."

This is the second time that Barclays has turned to North America in order to fill the vacancy left when Martin Taylor, its young, dynamic chief executive quit last December in extraordinary circumstances. Mike O'Neill, the former chief financial officer of Bank of America who was Barclays' first choice as replacement resigned on his first day at his post in April after developing a heart condition following a severe bout of flu.

Eager not to be caught out a second time, Barclays subjected their new choice to a rigorous medical examination, after which Mr Barrett joked that he that "was ready for the Olympics".

Both he and Sir Peter Middleton, the Barclays chairman, were showing the strain of the negotiations which began six weeks ago in earnest and which ended after a Bank of Montreal board meeting at 2am yesterday.

Throughout an interview with The Independent yesterday Mr Barrett repeatedly referred to his new employer as Lloyds while Sir Peter called him Mike.

When Mr Barrett announced his decision to leave Bank of Montreal, the plan was to relinquish the chief executive officer role immediately and the chairmanship in November, leaving him free in the meantime to look for another job.

Bank of Montreal have agreed to let him go in time to start his new job in October.

Mr Barrett had been on Barclays' initial short-list although Barclays did not believe he would be available. But by April when the search for a chief executive resumed in earnest, it was clear that Mr Barrett - who apart from advising the Irish government on the privatisation of the Irish TCC and TSB banks, would soon be at a loose end - had now become open to offers.

Mr Barrett said yesterday that when he started out at Bank of Montreal's branch in the west of London at 18 years of age, he looked "with envy" at the Barclays branch across the road. "Little did I imagine then that I would one day end up running the bank. It is unseemly the excitement that I feel," he said. And on a salary 500 times that of the average Barclays teller.

Outlook, page 17

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Financial Analyst - Forecasting - Yorkshire

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...

Business Architect - Bristol - £500 per day

£500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices