Fortis ‘considered’ sacking four executives

Dutch-Belgian financial services group Fortis was poised to sack its four senior executives after confidence in the company plummeted last summer, the NRC reports on Tuesday.

The paper bases its claims on a reconstruction of events leading from the purchase of ABN Amro to the dismantling and partial nationalisation of the Fortis group.
Not only chairman Jean-Paul Votron, but supervisory board president Maurice Lippens, deputy chairman Jan-Michiel Hessels and financial chief Gilbert Mittler were all under pressure, the paper says.
Their position came under fire at the end of June when the financial services group said it would scrap its half-yearly dividend and raise extra capital. Fortis’ share price plummeted by 19%. Shareholders were furious that the company had continually said its finances were healthy and it did not need extra cash.
The issue of a collective departure of the four senior executives was raised at a meeting of the supervisory board on July 11, the paper says. The aim was to restore confidence in the company.
Although all four heads were on the chopping block at one point in the negotiations, the supervisory board eventually agreed that one sacrificial victim – CEO Jean-Paul Votron – would be enough, the paper says.
Votron was succeeded by acting CEO Herman Verwilst. Two days later Mittler was sacked, although the decision was not made public for three weeks because of disagreements about his golden handshake and his new role as ‘special advisor to the chairman of the board’.
Lippens resigned at the end of September when the three Benelux governments decided to put €11.2bn into Fortis. His last act was to draw up a two-page document recommending that ABN Amro be divested, the paper says.

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