HSBC chief threatens to quit in top job battle: report

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HSBC's chief executive Michael Geoghegan has threatened to quit if he is not promoted to chairman, as the battle for the top job at the bank intensifies, a report said Wednesday.

Geoghegan was angered by the suggestion that he might be passed over for the role at Europe's biggest bank during a meeting last week, the Financial Times reported, citing a person familiar with the bank's succession plan.

"He was told the board was not ready to give him the chairmanship and he was not happy," the person was quoted as saying in the FT.

The role of chairman at Asia-focused HSBC opened up when the incumbent, Stephen Green, was appointed Britain's trade minister earlier this month. He will take up his new role in early 2011.

The decision about the succession is due to be made at a board meeting in Shanghai next Tuesday, said the FT.

HSBC has traditionally elevated its chief executive to chairman and Hong Kong-based Geoghegan, 56, would not be happy to see another chairman appointed over the top of him, said the FT.

He would be especially angered if the current favourite, former Goldman Sachs banker John Thornton, won the top job, according to the paper.

People close to Geoghegan played down his threat to resign. "He has a famously hot temper," one was quoted as saying in the FT.

Speculation has been rife about who will step into the chairman's role after the departure of Green, who is leaving the bank in rude health after steering it through the global financial crisis without taking a government bailout.

HSBC, founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, sees Asia as its most important region.

Reflecting that view, Geoghegan relocated to Hong Kong from London earlier this year, although the group remains headquartered in the British capital.

© 2010 AFP

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