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The Times: UBS backs Marcel Ospel amid plans to cut board terms (*Royal Dutch Shell Plc CFO Peter Voser in UBS Bank Crisis)

February 22, 2008
Christine Seib

Marcel Ospel, who was criticised for overseeing UBS’s first annual loss, of SwFr4.4 billion (£2.06 billion), has been nominated by the bank for reelection as its chairman at its annual meeting on April 23.

However, under proposed new rules, directors are to be reelected annually instead of for three years. Mr Ospel said that it was his idea to have the new, more limited tenure for board members.

The move comes as it emerged that headhunters used by UBS have approached some of London’s top bankers to become executive vice-chairman as a launch pad to the chairmanship.

Executives approached included Bob Diamond, president of Barclays, Michael Cohrs, head of global banking for Deutsche Bank and John Studzinski, Blackstone’s senior managing director, it was reported last night. Each is thought to have refused the offer and UBS has now abandoned its search for the time being.

A UBS spokesman said that the bank’s board still backed Mr Ospel and that it had appointed Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat chief executive, who is already a director of the bank, as nonexecutive vice-chairman. UBS has been the worst hit of Europe’s banks in the global credit crisis, sustaining $18 billion (£9.23 billion) of writedowns after the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market. A string of banks around the world have written off assets linked to risky American mortgage debt.

The existing board members Larry Weinbach, formerly executive chairman of Unisys, and Peter Voser, chief financial officer of Royal Dutch Shell, will also stand for re-election.

Mr Voser will take over from Mr Weinbach as chairman of the bank’s audit committee after Mr Weinbach asked to be relieved of this duty.

Mr Ospel said that the new appointments and the move to put board members up for reelection annually would “strengthen the leadership structure in order to manage UBS’s current challenges”.

The bank already has an executive vice-chairman, Stephan Haeringer, a long-time UBS employee.

Next week the Swiss bank is scheduled to hold an extraordinary meeting of shareholders in order to approve a capital injection of SwFr13 billion from GIC, the sovereign wealth fund of the Singapore Government, and an unnamed Middle Eastern investor, in return for a 9 per cent stake in the bank. The cash will be used to strengthen UBS’s tier1 capital.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article3412395.ece

*Headline comment in brackets added by John Donovan

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