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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing