FRANKFURT - Deutsche Bank AG confirmed market speculation Thursday - earlier than expected - on who will succeed Rolf-Ernst Breuer as its chief executive when his contract expires in May 2002.
In appointing Josef Ackermann, the management board member responsible for investment banking, Deutsche Bank signaled it will continue to expand in that area. The only real surprise in Thursday's announcement was its timing - 20 months before Mr. Breuer's contract expires.
A spokesman for Deutsche Bank said the move was part of its "long-term planning" and that the early announcement was "not unusual."
Bank insiders, meanwhile, said Deutsche Bank's management board wanted to allay speculation that the management shift would occur even sooner. After the bank's deal with hometown rival Dresdner Bank AG collapsed in April, market participants thought Mr. Breuer would be urged to resign by 2001. In recent weeks, this speculation grew as Deutsche Boerse AG's attempt to merge with the London Stock Exchange failed. Mr. Breuer is the supervisory board chairman of Deutsche Boerse.
In a prepared statement, Deutsche Bank didn't say whether Mr. Breuer would be offered a seat on the supervisory board in 2002. But sources said it is almost certain he will take over as supervisory board chairman. The current chairman, Hilmar Kopper, is to retire in May 2002.
Not much should be expected to change under Mr. Ackermann, analysts said. "The direction Deutsche Bank wants to take is pretty clearly mapped out already," said a London analyst who asked not to be named. "The power has already been shifting more and more to American-style investment bankers."
Indeed, Deutsche Bank this year appointed Edson Mitchell and Michael Phillip - both American investment bankers - to its management board.
Given a tough retail banking climate at home and ambitions to expand its presence worldwide, Deutsche Bank has emphasized its investment banking business in recent years. It bought Bankers Trust Corp. in 1998 as part of this strategy and has generated an increasing percentage of total profits from its global corporate and institutions division - Deutsche's version of investment banking.
Mr. Ackermann, 52, was appointed to the bank's management board in 1996.