London Stock Exchange appoints French CEO

February 13, 2009
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, LONDON, Feb 13 – The London Stock Exchange said on Friday it would swap a Dutchwoman for a Frenchman as its chief executive, appointing Xavier Rolet, a former senior executive at collapsed US bank Lehman Brothers.

"We are delighted to be appointing Xavier as the group\’s next chief executive," the chairman of Europe\’s biggest bourse, Chris Gibson-Smith, said in a statement. Rolet will replace current CEO Clara Furse in May.

Furse, who had been expected to step down after eight years in charge, fended off a series of takeover approaches for the London Stock Exchange during her time at the top, before agreeing to a merger with Italy\’s bourse in 2007.

"We are very grateful to Clara for all she has delivered to the group," said Gibson-Smith.

"In her eight years at the helm, she brought the Exchange to the public markets, transformed the scale of the business and its international reputation, and most recently led the merger with Borsa Italiana," added the LSE chairman.

Furse ranks among a small band of women who have managed to lead a listed British company and is the LSE\’s first female chief executive.

But the Financial Times commented on Friday that under Furse, the LSE had "lost ground to global rivals in building a diverse exchange business."

The respected business daily added: "The LSE faces the most serious challenge to its business in decades, amid a collapse in the value of stocks traded, competition from upstart equities trading platforms… and threats to its lucrative market data services."

Rolet, 49, has spent the past 25 years working for a number of major financial institutions, the LSE said on Friday. The Frenchman will join the LSE board on March 16 prior to replacing Furse on May 20.

"I am very excited to be joining London Stock Exchange Group," Rolet said.      "It is a great company, drawing from a rich pool of talented employees. Its strategic position is unique, and its business prospects are excellent.

"I look forward to contributing to its continued success and to developing further, in Clara\’s footsteps, the potential of this great international franchise," he added.

The share price of the LSE jumped 3.19 percent to 485 pence following news of Rolet\’s appointment, which the FT said would come as a blow to Massimo Capuano, Furse\’s deputy and the former chief executive of Borsa Italiana.

Rolet was a senior executive at Lehman Brothers\’ Europe division between 2000 and 2008, latterly heading up Lehman in France.

Lehman Brothers sought bankruptcy protection last September after frantic talks failed to find a buyer for the 600-billion-dollar Wall Street giant and the US government decided not to step in and save it.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers as a result of the credit crunch sparked turmoil on financial markets across the world.

Before joining Lehman Brothers, Rolet held senior equity trading positions at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs.

The LSE added that Furse would remain as a director of the group until the LSE\’s next annual general meeting in July.

Under Furse, the London Stock Exchange merged with Borsa Italiana in late 2007, cementing the LSE\’s position as Europe\’s biggest equity market.

In a bid to remain competitive, the LSE also attracted significant investment from Dubai and Qatar. Originally the pair together owned about half of the LSE though the stake has since been diluted to just over a third following the tie-up with Borsa Italiana.

Previously New York\’s Nasdaq Stock Market had been the biggest LSE shareholder as it sought to take over the London exchange but Furse succeeded in repelling hostile approaches.

In recent years, stock market operators have fought to broaden their reach and cut costs as investors seek more globalised trading opportunities and cheaper transaction costs.

The industry\’s globalisation has been accelerated by a move towards electronic trading platforms and away from raucous trading floors.

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