Business Irish

Monday 19 March 2018

Bank of Ireland CEO Boucher weighs up new role with billionaire Prem Watsa

Richie Boucher
Richie Boucher

Gretchen Friemann

Bank of Ireland's outgoing CEO, Richie Boucher, is considering a future role with the Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa, the investment guru who reaped a fortune from the lender after buying into the Irish bank at the nadir of the financial crisis.

Sources familiar with Mr Boucher's future moves told the Irish Independent he is weighing an offer to work with Mr Watsa.

Toronto-headquartered Fairfax Financial Holdings, headed by Watsa, is often dubbed the Canadian version of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway investment firm. It hoovered up 9.3pc of Bank of Ireland in 2011, when the lender was on its knees.

The stake was bought at 10c a share, delivering a hefty CAD$806m (€566m) profit when Mr Watsa began cashing in the holding starting in 2014 when the stock was trading at more than 30 cent. By the end of last year it had sold the vast majority of its exposure, bought as part of an orchestrated deal that also involved a major investment from US billionaire Wilbur Ross. He too made a €500m-plus gain on the selldown of his 9.3 pc stake.

The 2011 equity injection from the private investors prevented a full-scale nationalisation of Bank of Ireland at the time, and the lender remains in better health than its peer AIB given its lighter burden of non-performing loans.

But the State's role in the bank's rescue has also kept a lid on Mr Boucher's wages, with global proxy firms recently noting his total remuneration for 2016 remains less than the average paid to peers at a similarly-sized European bank.

CGI Glass Lewis flagged its concerns at the lack of performance-related pay ahead of the lender's AGM but conceded the restrictions stem from the State recapitalisation of the banks.

The Government still holds a 14pc stake in Bank of Ireland which is yet to resume dividends.

Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business