BNP Paribas board meets Friday to replace Chairman Prot: sources

Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:50am EDT
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By Matthias Blamont and Maya Nikolaeva

PARIS (Reuters) - BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA: Quote) Chairman Baudouin Prot, shaper of the French bank's strategy for more than a decade, has quit and the board will meet on Friday to decide on his replacement, sources close to the situation said.

Two sources said Jean Lemierre, the bank's key negotiator in the record-breaking $8.9 billion fine it paid this year for violating U.S. sanctions, was the most likely successor.

One of them said Lemierre, a former executive of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), was the only person in the frame. The source said Prot was not pushed out but "felt the need to take responsibility" for the ultimately costly and embarrassing sanctions-busting era, having maintained the bank's stability through the summer.

The sanctions issue shook the bank to its core, threatening its debt rating and leading French President Francois Hollande to voice concerns that U.S. authorities were taking "disproportionate" actions against the bank.

"It was a personal decision," a third source said on Thursday of 63 year-old Prot's move. "After more than 30 years with the bank, he wants to take a step back."

Prot's mandate as chairman was renewed this year and had been due to run until 2017. He joined BNP in 1983 and became chairman in 2011, helping mastermind acquisitions such as Paribas in 1999, Italy's BNL in 2006 and Belgium's Fortis in 2009, deals which created France's biggest listed bank.

Prot is the second top official to leave since the sanctions-busting affair came to light earlier this year. The bank announced the retirement of Chief Operating Officer Georges Chodron de Courcel in mid-June. Its head of compliance, Jean Clamon, is also due to depart before the end of the year.

Industry sources speculated that Prot's departure could be an opportunity for the bank to move more quickly into a new generation of leadership, citing potential for finance director Lars Machenil for instance to get an enhanced role.   Continued...

An employee walks behind the logo of BNP Paribas in a company's building in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau