Ex-ECB president Duisenberg found dead in villa


Wim Duisenberg, former president of the European Central Bank, was found dead yesterday at a villa in the south of France.

The 70-year-old's death was being treated as accidental by French police.

He was found late yesterday morning in the villa's swimming pool, where he had apparently drowned.

Firemen were initially called to the scene in the Provencal village of Faucon, near Avignon, but attempts to resuscitate Mr Duisenberg were unsuccessful.

A spokesman for the French Interior Ministry said that there would be an inquiry into his death, as is commonplace in such incidents, but that no foul play was suspected.

Mr Duisenberg, who celebrated his 70th birthday last month, was the first president of the European Central Bank and, as such, the man who oversaw the introduction of the euro in 1999 and euro notes and coins in 2002.

A straight-talking Dutchman, known for his wild hair and piercing blue eyes, Mr Duisenberg had worked his way up to the job with a curriculum vitae that included senior roles in the commercial sector, as a board member at the Dutch co-operative bank Rabobank; in academia, as an economics professor; and as Dutch finance minister and then head of the Dutch central bank.

Mr Duisenberg was widely respected for his technical expertise and for piloting an unexpectedly smooth transition to a new currency across 12 countries, now expanded to 15.

In a brief statement last night, the ECB said it was "deeply grieved" to hear of Mr Duisenberg's death. "The first president of the European Central Bank played a considerable role in the construction of Europe - and in the successful launching of the new currency, in fostering the credibility of, and ensuring confidence in, our single currency, the euro."

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, also expressed his sadness on hearing of the death of Wim Duisenberg.

"I was shocked to hear of Wim's death today as I have known and worked alongside Wim over the last two decades including dealing with him when had the honour of being ECB president during the early days of our new currency, the euro," said Mr Ahern in a statement.

Mr Duisenberg stepped down from the presidency of the ECB in November 2003, after serving five years of an eight-year term and handed over to Jean-Claude Trichet.

Since then, he had disappeared from the limelight but had kept up several non-executive and advisory roles - at Rabobank, Air-France-KLM, the airline, and Giesecke & Devrient, the banknote group.