Irish banker was tapped to head Deutsche Bank board

Cerberus floated Morgan Stanley veteran Kelleher’s name in effort to oust Achleitner

Colm Kelleher: does not speak German and spent his career at a Wall Street institution hugely different to Deutsche Bank.  Photograph: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

Colm Kelleher: does not speak German and spent his career at a Wall Street institution hugely different to Deutsche Bank. Photograph: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

 

One of Deutsche Bank’s top shareholders tried to install former Morgan Stanley president Colm Kelleher as chairman of Germany’s largest lender, highlighting the depth of discontent over the incumbent, Paul Achleitner.

Cerberus, the US private equity fund that is Deutsche’s fifth-biggest shareholder, floated Mr Kelleher in conversations with regulators and chief executive Christian Sewing, said people familiar with the matter.

Cerberus has been agitating for Mr Achleitner’s departure for more than a year and began courting Mr Kelleher before the German bank’s annual investor meeting in May.

One person said Cerberus’s idea failed to win sufficient support from other investors as well as the supervisory board’s nomination committee, which instead nominated Deutsche Börse chief executive Theo Weimer and former German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel as new board members.

Lost value

Mr Kelleher, who stepped down as Morgan Stanley’s number two in March 2019, declined to comment, as did Cerberus and Deutsche Bank.

Cerberus disclosed a 3 per cent stake in November 2017, which has since lost €400 million of value.

Mr Achleitner last May said he would step down when his second five-year term ends in 2022. That announcement, coupled with Deutsche’s improved financial performance in 2020, took some urgency out of replacing the Austrian who has led the bank through three leadership teams and five strategic plans.

No German

The plan to install Mr Kelleher was not widely known within Deutsche, but some of the bank’s most senior executives had heard about it. One of them described it as a “very surprising” proposition, because Mr Kelleher does not speak German and spent his career at a Wall Street institution that was hugely different to the bank.

Germany has a two-tier corporate governance structure, with a chairman leading a supervisory board where half the seats are held by workers representatives. Non-executive directors can be proposed by shareholders at the annual meeting and are approved by majority vote. It is not clear whether Cerberus’s idea had the support of other investors. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020