Antonio Horta-Osorio: Insomnia and me

The Lloyds boss reveals battle to be allowed to return to work and tells Nick Goodway about his recovery from extreme exhaustion

He looked like becoming an unlikely casualty of the recession – the millionaire bank boss who could no longer do his job because he could not sleep at night. Yesterday, after Lloyds Banking Group announced the return of Antonio Horta-Osorio six weeks after he was signed off with insomnia, the chief executive revealed how exhaustion drove him to re-hab, and how recovery led him to a series of interviews for his own job.

In the first media interview since he stepped aside as chief executive of the bank at the end of October, he said: "With the benefit of hindsight I overdid it. I focused too much on too many details."

He described how the condition – which he and the bank refuse to call stress – crept up on him: "By the beginning of September I was beginning to have problems sleeping. I would go to bed exhausted but could not get to sleep. I could not switch off. I had never had this problem before. I was ending up with just two or three hours' sleep every night."

He added: "I understand now why they use sleep deprivation to torture prisoners."

Speculation grew in the City that Mr Horta-Osorio might never return to work when, in a highly unusual move in early November, Lloyds announced the bank's boss, 47, had stood aside after being ordered to rest because he was suffering from extreme exhaustion. Lloyds announced two stand-ins in case his return was delayed.

This week the bank gave him a clean bill of health and said he will return to work on 9 January. That followed an independent medical assessment prepared for the board and individual interviews with Mr Horta-Osorio by each of the other 16 directors.

Mr Horta-Osorio said it was his wife who urged him to seek help: "I sought medical advice and went to see a specialist. He told me that in effect my battery was so run down that it was virtually on zero. I went to the Priory for a week just to rest. Then I went home and was immediately sleeping eight hours a day. By then I felt extremely well and was telling the chairman I wanted to come back to work. I spent the next five weeks in London and Portugal and took a few restful trips.

"The treatment involved medicine to help me sleep and I am still on mild doses of that, which I expect to come off in the next few weeks." Mr Horta-Osorio's treatment was paid for under the bank's private medical insurance. He was astonished to learn how common insomnia is. "The official figures are that 30 per cent of the population suffers from sleep deprivation at some time but my specialist told me it was more like 50 per cent," he said.

Asked if his experience had taught him anything that other City workers could learn from, he said: "The message to people working in the City or anywhere else where they are under extreme pressure and suffering, with the benefit of hindsight, is to seek professional help immediately."

While some in the City question whether Mr Horta-Osorio can be as effective as chief executive now as he was before his illness, the Lloyds boss said: "I don't believe I have been damaged by this. The other side of the coin of sleep deprivation is that you can recover from it completely. If I did not feel completely well I would not have come back."

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 People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker