UniCredit Narrows CEO Search as Some Investors Back Orcel

The race to succeed UniCredit SpA Chief Executive Officer Jean Pierre Mustier is accelerating, with the Italian bank trimming its list of preferred candidates to just three or four after high-profile names such as Tidjane Thiam dropped out of contention.

The bank is now seeking to name a successor earlier than its initial target of Feb. 10, according to people with knowledge of the search. Those still in contention include former UBS Group AG investment banker Andrea Orcel, Fincantieri SpA General Manager Fabio Gallia and UniCredit co-Chief Operating Officer Carlo Vivaldi, the people said, asking not to be named because the process isn’t public.

Orcel is getting support from some of UniCredit’s foreign institutional investors and Italian shareholders including Luxottica founder Leonardo del Vecchio and Fondazione CariVerona, the people said. They cite his status as one of Europe’s top bankers and his understanding of international finance.

UniCredit Narrows CEO Search as Some Investors Back Orcel

UniCredit directors last month mandated a search for a CEO with an international profile and knowledge of European financial markets, as well as commercial, corporate and investment banking. Mustier, whose departure was announced in November, will remain at the bank until his contract runs out in April or a replacement is found.

UniCredit Board Sets Requirements for Mustier’s Replacement

Despite the investor support, an appointment of Orcel may face a number of hurdles. He is currently suing Banco Santander SA for about 100 million euros ($122 million), after the Spanish bank backed out of hiring him last year. He also was the architect of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA’s troubled acquisition of Antonveneta in 2007.

Gallia spent most of his career in Rome, cultivating relations with the Finance Ministry and state-owned companies, and that may help him navigate the Italian political landscape through a potential merger with state-owned Monte Paschi, the people said. Still, his profile is little known outside Italy and he has no experience in running an international firm like UniCredit.

The only internal candidate under review is Carlo Vivaldi, who started his career in 1991 at one of the banks that was merged into UniCredit in 1998. He covered a wide range of roles in Italy, Turkey, Austria and Eastern Europe.

Two executives previously seen as front runners, Diego De Giorgi, former head of global investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Nexi SpA CFO Bernardo Mingrone, are out of the race, according to some of the people.

Thiam, the former Credit Suisse Group AG CEO who was contacted by UniCredit, told Bloomberg that he isn’t interested in the job. The executive is currently working on setting up special purpose acquisition company with help from JPMorgan Chase & Co. Potential outsiders for the position include Flavio Valeri, Deutsche Bank AG’s former chief country officer for Italy, and Mediobanca CEO Alberto Nagel, 55, some of the people said.

The situation is still fluid and a person not mentioned so far can still join the list of final candidates, the people said.

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