In Italy, the fall of the banker Jean-Pierre Mustier

Jean-Pierre Mustier, Managing Director of the Italian bank Unicredit, on February 8, 2018, in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

The affair was tied very quickly, after weeks of internal tensions and tensions. On Sunday afternoon, November 29, the members of the board of directors of the Unicredit bank gathered for an informal meeting, immediately interpreted by observers as the announcement of an imminent coup. The next day, after a day of rumors, the managing director of the second bank of Italy, the French Jean-Pierre Mustier, made public his decision not to continue at the head of the group beyond the end of his mandate, set for next April.

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“I am proud of everything we have achieved in such a short time”, he assured in a long message to announce his decision, noting that he was no longer “In line with the current vision of the board of directors”. The reason for this discrepancy is nowhere explained, but it is no secret. The French leader, placed in 2016 at the head of Unicredit then in very great difficulty, and which he recovered in a few months through asset disposals and cost reductions, was more than reluctant at the prospect of a merger with the Monte dei Paschi bank of Siena (BMPS), in deep crisis and continuous since the beginning of the 2010s.

Provisionally nationalized de facto at the end of 2016 to avoid bankruptcy, the oldest bank in the world, founded in 1472 in Siena (Tuscany), remains structurally very fragile, even relieved of most of its bad debts. So the Italian state has been working for months to work for a rapprochement between the two establishments. Jean-Pierre Mustier, for his part, did not wish to precipitate such a scenario, judging the consolidation of Unicredit too fresh and the general situation too uncertain to embark on an adventurous merger without solid financial guarantees.

Political imperatives

“The arrival of Jean-Pierre Mustier, four and a half years ago, had been interpreted by many as the announcement of a merger with a foreign bank, undoubtedly Société Générale”, says an observer of the Milanese financial center. “In the end, it didn’t happen, he continues, and the option of a merger with BMPS was imposed. However, this type of merger between banks from the same country poses very different problems and would risk mobilizing energies in the midst of a crisis, which is never ideal… Also, Jean-Pierre Mustier tried to get time and guarantees. “

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