Zurich confirms suicide note of finance chief

Swiss paper reports that Wauthier said he was under pressure for poor financial results

Josef Ackermann, who has resigned as  chairman of Zurich Financial Services Group  after  the death by suicide of  its chief financial officer. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Josef Ackermann, who has resigned as chairman of Zurich Financial Services Group after the death by suicide of its chief financial officer. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

 



Swiss insurer Zurich has confirmed its finance chief Pierre Wauthier left a note addressing his reportedly fraught relationship with supervisory board chairman Josef Ackermann before apparently taking his life.

After claims that Mr Wauthier’s family blamed Mr Ackermann for the death, the former Deutsche Bank chairman resigned on Thursday from Zurich.

“We were informed that such a letter exists, we are aware of its contents and it is correct that it relates to the relationship between Pierre Wauthier and Josef Ackermann,” acting chairman Tom de Swaan said yesterday, but it would be “inappropriate to elaborate”.

Announcing an internal investigation, he said he was “personally not aware of any behaviour that would be inappropriate in a board setting”.

Mr de Swaan said the event had been “deeply unsettling” and “completely unexpected”, insisting there were no questions about recent financial data presented. Mr Wauthier (53), a dual French and British citizen, was married with two children.

Switzerland’s Tagesanzeiger daily said that Mr Wauthier’s note blamed Mr Ackermann for putting him under pressure for poor financial results.

Group chief executive Martin Sinn refused to discuss that report yesterday, insisting there was “no link between the tragic occurrence and the business of Zurich insurance”.

Two weeks ago Zurich announced a 27 per cent decline in second quarter net income, blaming recent central European floods and US tornadoes.

Mr Wauthier joined Zurich in 1996 and was appointed chief financial officer in 2011. His body was found at his home on the shores of Lake Zug on Monday morning; police have ruled out third-party involvement.

Despite financial pressure on the company, a Zurich spokesman said the situation was far from catastrophic. “For us the business performance presents no clear reason that could lead to a suicide,” he said.

An unnamed source at Zurich told the Tagesanzeiger that after joining the company last year, Mr Ackermann “found Zurich to be a fairly dusty civil servant operation that needed to be whipped into shape”.

However another unnamed source, reportedly familiar with the minutes of board meetings, told the newspaper that Mr Ackermann maintained a professional tone in his criticism of company performance.