After almost 40 years with the Zurich Group, the last 11 as President and CEO, Rolf Hüppi announced on Friday that not only will he resign as CEO, as announced last February, but will also give up his position as a member and Chairman of the company’s Board of Management.
Hüppi’s departure was reportedly demanded by several large shareholders and institutional investors, dissatisfied with the company’s results over the last year and a half. Zurich was forced to issue repeated profit warnings last year, as its results deteriorated. It was also hit, along with most other insurers, by the Sept. 11 attacks, and suffered a net loss of $387 million last year (See IJ Website march 11)
Under Hüppi’s direction Zurich became became Zurich Financial Services in 1998 following its merger with British-American Tobacco’s financial division. He headed one of the world’s largest financial service and insurance companies, active on all continents and in all markets. But just as acquisitions were once the source of growth, so when the equity markets stalled and then dove they’ve been a drag on Zurich’s profits, and the pressure has mounted on Hüppi to step down.
Initially shareholders sought to have him relinquish either his position as President and CEO, or his role as Chairman of the Board of management, which he eventually agreed to.
But apparently more was needed. Hüppi stated that “I consider it desirable and important that the new leadership of our group can be established unencumbered by the ongoing public controversy surrounding me.”
His resignation from the Board is effective immediately. He’ll be replaced by Lodewijk van Wachem, Zurich’s Vice- Chairman until the shareholders meeting scheduled to be held May 16.
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