UBS names ex-Bundesbank chief Weber next chairman

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Swiss banking giant UBS on Friday named former Bundesbank chief Axel Weber as its next chairman, a move lauded by Switzerland's central bank as positive for both the lender and the country.

"The board of directors of UBS AG will nominate Axel Weber for election to the board at the annual general meeting on 3 May 2012," UBS said.

"If elected, the board plans to appoint him as non-independent vice-chairman," the bank said.

"After his first year in office, he is expected to succeed Kaspar Villiger as chairman of the board in 2013," it added.

Weber was the president of the Bundesbank and widely touted as a strong candidate to take over as chief of the European Central Bank earlier this year but he announced his surprise resignation in February, citing personal reasons.

The Bundesbank said in a statement that it would examine a request by Weber to join UBS, since its approval is needed under the terms of his contract.

Weber had agreed to observe a grace period before going back to the private banking sector.

His request should be reviewed during a meeting of the German central bank on July 12, it said.

UBS chairman Villiger said Weber's appointment would "guarantee a smooth leadership transition and stability."

Weber also said that "stability and a long-term strategic outlook are key" going forward.

"Being able to help shape the bank's future is an attractive prospect and I look forward to working together with the board, the management team and CEO Oswald Gruebel," the 54-year-old Weber said in the statement.

Switzerland's top central banker Philipp Hildebrand described the move as "a pleasing development for the bank and for Switzerland as a whole.

"Axel Weber has been one of our most important partners in the joint efforts to bring about international financial market reforms," said Hildebrand.

"The fact that he will now be deploying his abilities in the interests of furthering UBS and the long-term success of the Swiss financial centre is very welcome.

"For UBS, the nomination has brought clarity to one of the main long-term management issues and this can also be assessed very favourably with regard to the outlook for the bank," Switzerland's central bank chief added.

As chairman, Weber would receive an annual base salary of 2.0 million francs (1.6 million euros, $2.3 million) as well as 200,000 shares which would be frozen for four years. At current prices, these shares are worth about 3.1 million francs.

Bank Wegelin analysts said the appointment was positive, saying that Weber is "a renowned specialist who benefits from a strong reputation and who has proven his competence."

The analysts also noted that the news would spark speculation about further management changes, including potential successors for chief executive Gruebel.

Gruebel, also German, and Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister, took over the helm of UBS at the height of the financial crisis, when the bank was struggling to recover after losing billions of francs.

© 2011 AFP

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