Deutsche Bank AG's pending $9 billion deal for Bankers Trust Corp. would return Josef Ackermann, one of the German bank's highest-ranking executives, to the Wall Street spotlight.
The Swiss-born Mr. Ackermann, 50, is slated to become co-manager of the new company's global corporate and investment banking business. Based in Frankfurt, he would share that role with Frank N. Newman, Bankers Trust's chairman, who would stay in New York.
The boards were scheduled to vote formally on Deutsche Bank's acquisition plan Sunday. The deal would create an $848 billion-asset financial institution, the world's largest. A spokesman for Deutsche Bank said Mr. Ackermann would not be available for comment until merger details are finalized.
But those who have followed his 20-year banking career said the executive is well equipped to handle thorny integration issues that could arise.
"I found him to be well balanced and an excellent manager," said Thomas Hanley, an analyst at Warburg Dillon Read who once worked with Mr. Ackermann. "He has a very fine knowledge of investment banking."
"He always brought a thoughtful and consistent approach to the marketplace," said another former associate, who asked not to be named.
Former colleagues describe Mr. Ackermann as a quiet academic, inclined to favor American-style management practices. An economist by training, he received a doctorate from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and joined the huge Swiss bank CS Holding in 1978.
He spent time in various posts in London, New York, and Zurich. In 1987 he was named head of Credit Suisse's investment banking unit, a position that first put him on Wall Street's radar screen, observers said. Like other banks, Credit Suisse was investing heavily in building its global securities underwriting capabilities.
His star rose quickly, and in 1993 he was handpicked by CS Holding chairman Ranier Gut to succeed Robert A. Jeker as chief executive officer. He was 44 at the time.
But the celebrity was brief. Mr. Ackermann was in charge of shepherding the integration of First Boston, which the bank acquired in the late 1980s. Infighting among the Swiss bankers and the U.S.-based investment bankers and subsequent defections were constant. Mr. Ackermann left in July 1996 in a sweeping restructuring. Former colleagues said he was a scapegoat.
In a move that shocked many, he joined one of Credit Suisse's fiercest European rivals, Deutsche Bank, that autumn. "To go to the biggest competitor is just unheard of in Europe," Mr. Hanley said.
Since then, he has been one of Deutsche Bank's group of senior executives. In January he was picked along with fellow group executive Ronaldo Schmitz to co-head a new division called global corporates and institutions. Together, the two executives have been working to build Deutsche Bank's securities underwriting presence in the United States.
It remains unclear what role Mr. Schmitz will play in the combined organization, analysts said.
Observers do not expect Mr. Newman to stick around the merged company for long. That could set up Mr. Ackermann as a succession candidate to Rolf E. Breuer, Deutsche Bank's chairman, some market watchers said.
"But he has to pull this off well first," Mr. Hanley said.