London Stock Exchange appoints French CEO

14th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The London Stock Exchange decided Friday to swap a Dutchwoman for a Frenchman as its chief executive, appointing Xavier Rolet, a former senior executive at collapsed US bank Lehman Brothers.

LONDON - "We are delighted to be appointing Xavier as the group's next chief executive," said the chairman of the LSE, the biggest European stock market, Chris Gibson-Smith, in a statement.

Rolet, speaking to AFP after his appointment, said there are "encouraging" signs that governments are starting to get to grips with the current global economic and financial crisis.

Rolet said in an interview that he was "very excited" to be taking over the LSE helm from Dutchwoman Clara Furse, whom he will replace in May.

"It's for me the accomplishment of over 15 years of involvement in the exchange area," he said, adding that it was "a great business opportunity".

The LSE praised outgoing boss Furse, but press comment said that the stock exchange had lost ground during the eight years of her leadership.

Furse, who had been expected to step down, fended off a series of takeover approaches for the London Stock Exchange during her time at the top, before agreeing to a merger with the Italian stock market in 2007.

"We are very grateful to Clara for all she has delivered to the group," said Gibson-Smith.

"In her eight years at the helm, she brought the Exchange to the public markets, transformed the scale of the business and its international reputation, and most recently led the merger with Borsa Italiana," added the LSE chairman.

Furse ranks among a small band of women who have managed to lead a listed British company and is the LSE's first female chief executive.

But the Financial Times commented on Friday that under Furse, the LSE had "lost ground to global rivals in building a diverse exchange business."

The respected business daily added: "The LSE faces the most serious challenge to its business in decades, amid a collapse in the value of stocks traded, competition from upstart equities trading platforms... and threats to its lucrative market data services."

Rolet, 49, has spent the past 25 years working for a number of major financial institutions, the LSE said on Friday. He will join the LSE board on March 16 prior to replacing Furse on May 20.

Speaking to AFP, Rolet insisted that while he cannot predict how long the current global economic downturn will last, there were signs that it is being brought under control.

"My personal opinion is that we have seen in the last few weeks a heightened sense of coordination between governments and regulatory entities, a realistic approach to the financial crisis," he said.

"Things have been looked at and not only bail out packages, but regulatory changes. It's encouraging .. There is definitely a sense that we're making progress in tackling the issues ahead."

The share price of the LSE jumped 3.83 percent to close at 488 pence after news of his appointment, which the FT said would come as a blow to Massimo Capuano, Furse's deputy and the former chief executive of Borsa Italiana.

Rolet was a senior executive at Lehman Brothers' Europe division between 2000 and 2008, latterly heading up Lehman in France.

Lehman Brothers sought bankruptcy protection last September after frantic talks failed to find a buyer for the 600-billion-dollar Wall Street giant and the US government decided not to step in and save it.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers as a result of the credit crunch sparked turmoil on financial markets across the world.

Before joining Lehman Brothers, Rolet held senior equity trading positions at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs.

The LSE added that Furse would remain as a director of the group until the LSE's next annual general meeting in July.

Under Furse, the London Stock Exchange merged with Borsa Italiana in late 2007, cementing the LSE's position as Europe's biggest equity market.

In a bid to remain competitive, the LSE also attracted significant investment from Dubai and Qatar. Originally the pair together owned about half of the LSE though the stake has since been diluted to just over a third following the tie-up with Borsa Italiana.


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