UBS boss finally leaves the helm

mospel_highres.jpgThe head of Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS, has finally called it quits as his institution’s losses from the US subprime crisis continue. Chairman Marcel Ospel announced his departure on April 1, saying he had decided to leave to help restore confidence in the bank, which has has lost nearly SFr40 billion in the American property market mess.

Calls for Ospel’s head had been doing the rounds for some time, with criticism reaching its high point after he announced the first massive losses last October. Ospel refused to budge though, sticking to his (stubborn) outlook.

Mind you he has always believed that he is right and the others wrong. The outcry provoked by his massive salary in years past didn’t even bother him, even though he has regularly been one of the country’s top two earners. Nor did he seem to mind being portrayed as the villain who encouraged the collapse of national carrier Swissair by turning off the credit tap and waiting for the government to resurrect the airline as Swiss.

The latest round of losses were enough to see Ospel finally come unstuck, with him cast as being the prime culprit for the bad news and described by some as UBS’ biggest liability. The bank’s image has taken a hammering at home, and there are more than a few Swiss home-owners and businesses wondering how the institution got into such a pickle – gambling for high stakes on the US property market – when loans in Switzerland are only handed out if stiff conditions are met.

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