The Business On... Alessandro Profumo, Chief executive, UniCredit
Wednesday 22 September 2010
With a name like that, there has to be a scandal?
A mini-one. Mr Profumo, one of Europe's longest-serving bank bosses, was fighting for his job at UniCredit last night, amid allegations he didn't tell colleagues that Libyan investors were adding to their stake in Italy's biggest bank.
That hardly sounds like a hanging offence?
Maybe not, but Mr Profumo's relationship with fellow directors had already deteriorated. Dubbed "Mr Arrogance" in the Italian press, there's been sniping about his management style, and this is far from the first attempt to oust him.
Still, an impressive banker?
On the plus-side, he has built UniCredit into one of Europe's biggest banks during his 13 years in charge. But he has sometimes been over-ambitious. Plans to buy BBVA of Spain and Germany's Commerzbank failed. And the acquisition of the German group HVB in 2005, which looked smart before the financial crisis, felt less so after it, hurting his reputation.
That sounds like a familiar tale.
There are certainly parallels with Sir Fred Goodwin and the ambition that saw him fight so hard to secure ABN Amro on behalf of Royal Bank of Scotland. In Mr Profumo's case, he bought a bank with huge exposure to central and emerging Europe – that vulnerability prompted an 85 per cent fall in the value of UniCredit shares following the crisis.
He's done well to survive this long then?
Indeed, though UniCredit has never posted losses. Mr Profumo is nothing if not tenacious – he got a job on the front desk of a bank when his wife fell pregnant, quit when it tried to promote him for a move into management consultancy, and got the top job at UniCredit aged just 40, much to the chagrin of many colleagues.
What will he do next?
Some downtime might be no bad thing. He can indulge his love of Inter Milan or do a bit more diving. He once placated a politician angry with the bank by pulling out a picture of a shark that he'd taken on a dive.
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