There’s a lesson for all boardrooms — and an echo of the lost era of big-bucks, big-ego banking — in the story of Santander’s withdrawal of its job offer to Andrea Orcel. The Italian-born former UBS and Merrill Lynch investment banker was named last September as the next chief executive of the Spanish giant that is Europe’s fifth-largest commercial banking group; but during his ‘gardening leave’ between employers, the deal fell apart. The amount Orcel was demanding in compensation for deferred rewards at UBS — some reports say €50 million — turned out to be way over the top for the Spaniards. And having previously known him only as a dealmaker on their behalf, they were evidently late to catch up with his reputation as a boss — on which I commend a Financial News article from October 2018 titled ‘Angry Management: the Dark Side of Andrea Orcel’.
Finally, vanity of vanities, Orcel and Santander chairman Ana Botín had a spat (according to the FT) over whether he could attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, at which both were high-profile regulars. The bank that got big by being shrewd and sensible under Botín family management ends up with huevos all over its face, while lawyers sort out the mess. Simple moral of the story: know everything about your candidate and nail every detail of his pay package before you announce the hiring. And have no truck with anyone who asks for €50 million upfront.