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Axel Weber


Swiss bank UBS on Friday named former Bundesbank president Axel Weber as its next chairman in a surprise move that robbed rival Deutsche Bank AG of a top candidate to succeed its chief Josef Ackermann in 2013.

Mr. Weber dramatically quit his role as Bundesbank chief in February, leaving Berlin without a candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as president of the European Central Bank -- an institution Mr. Weber felt was straying too far from its inflation-fighting mandate.

He is likely to take a more prominent role at UBS than current chairman Kaspar Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister who was coaxed out of retirement to help restore market confidence in the bank after it suffered the worst annual loss in Swiss corporate history during the financial crisis.

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"Villiger was always seen as a temporary solution to help UBS get through the crisis and Axel Weber's clearly got more of a connected network into the international banking industry," said Cheuvreux banking analyst Christian Stark.

UBS's smooth succession planning contrasts with the difficulties seen at its German rival Deutsche where Mr. Ackermann, chairman of the executive board, extended his contract for four years in 2009 after the bank failed to find a successor.

"I think it's positive that they were able to announce it two years in advance. (Weber) is a strong candidate who was also in talks to become chairman of the management board at Deutsche Bank, so it's very good news," said Mr. Stark.

UBS, Europe's largest wealth manager by assets, said it would nominate Mr. Weber to the board at the annual general meeting in May 2012, and that he was expected to take over from 70-year-old Mr. Villiger in 2013.

UBS said Mr. Weber would get a basic salary of 1.5-million Swiss francs as vice-chairman, as well as 150,000 UBS shares, which will be restricted from sale for four years.

As chairman his salary will rise to 2-million Swiss francs and 200,000 UBS shares, also locked in for four years.

As part of his remuneration package Mr. Weber will also get 2-million Swiss francs and 200,000 shares, locked in for a year, as a one-off payment on joining the board in 2012.

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Mr. Weber, aged 54, was president of Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, from April 2004 to April 2011 and was a member of the Governing Council of the ECB.

No stranger to controversy, Mr. Weber clashed publicly with French President Nicolas Sarkozy while at the Bundesbank and infuriated German government officials by giving up his pole position place to succeed Mr. Trichet.

After quitting the Bundesbank, Weber took up a one-year teaching post at the University of Chicago.

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