Commerzbank Nominates New Board Chairman Amid Turmoil at Top

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Commerzbank AG nominated Helmut Gottschalk, formerly at DZ Bank AG, to head its supervisory board in an attempt to put a quick end to a leadership crisis that threatens to derail the bank’s reorganization.

Gottschalk was proposed as a new member of the board, which intends to elect him chairman immediately after his appointment by the annual general meeting, the Frankfurt-based lender said in a statement late Sunday.

The unprofitable German bank, already dealing with a major restructuring program, is trying to move on from its latest boardroom crisis. Hans-Joerg Vetter resigned as chairman this month for health reasons and a second board member, Andreas Schmitz, abruptly stepped aside on Thursday. That left Chief Executive Officer Manfred Knof without the backing of a strong chairman while he seeks to execute an ambitious turnaround plan that Vetter helped develop.

The firm on Thursday also postponed its AGM as a result. It was originally scheduled for May 5.

“The Supervisory Board moved ahead quickly with the selection process for its new chairman,” the German lender said in the statement. The bank also said it wants to find a “swift” replacement for the vacancy left by Schmitz in an effort to announce a new date for its AGM.

Gottschalk was a member of DZ Bank’s supervisory board for 15 years and led the governance body as chairman from 2010 until 2018, according to the statement. DZ Bank is one of Germany’s biggest banks by assets.

The second board member to resign this month, Schmitz was initially seen as a potential successor to Vetter. But he stepped down after several other board members raised questions about the role of HSBC Holdings Plc’s German unit in a controversial trading strategy known as Cum-Ex while he was head of that business, people familiar with the matter have said.

Commerzbank also said earlier in the week it will probably post its second consecutive loss this year as it grapples with more than $1 billion costs to restructure the business, while provisions to cover bad loans remain elevated.

Knof, who joined Commerzbank at the beginning of the year, presented plans for a deep restructuring in February. The strategy will see the bank seek to shed about a third of the domestic workforce, trim its foreign presence and close more than 40% of its branches.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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