Banks

Deutsche Bank chairman urged to step down by US private equity firm Cerberus

Key Points
  • Cerberus has lost faith in Achleitner and its desire for change has increased since merger talks with Commerzbank failed earlier this year, according to the sources.
  • Achleitner took over as chairman of Deutsche Bank in 2012 and its share price is down more than 73% since then.
  • Separate sources within the bank, who also wanted to remain anonymous, have told CNBC there are growing frustrations over the failed Commerzbank merger and an unsuccessful return to profitability.
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Deutsche Bank chairman urged to step down by US private equity firm Cerberus

U.S. private equity firm Cerberus is hoping to replace Deutsche Bank Chairman Paul Achleitner, two sources confirmed to CNBC on Tuesday.

Cerberus has lost faith in Achleitner and its desire for change has increased since merger talks with Commerzbank failed earlier this year, according to the sources. The private equity firm has a 3% stake in Deutsche Bank.

The German bank has declined to comment on the story which first reported by the Financial Times. However, two people familiar with the matter told CNBC on the condition of anonymity that Cerberus was indeed pushing for the 63-year-old chairman to be replaced.

Germany's flagship lender has been in the news for all the wrong reasons — from settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice, to management reshuffles, weak earnings, massive fines, constant restructuring, merger speculation and steep stock price falls.

In the past, Deutsche Bank's other big shareholders have raised concerns about the bank's failing strategy and have called for a reshuffle of the board. In May, Deutsche Bank's proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) called for shareholders to vote against the board, citing a series of scandals resulting from the bank's failure to uphold anti-money laundering controls and causing reputational and monetary damage.

The FT has also reported that the lender's other large shareholders – members of the Qatari royal family, funds managed by former J.P. Morgan Chase executive Doug Braunstein and asset manager BlackRock – have concerns about Achleitner's performance.

Achleitner took over as chairman of Deutsche Bank in 2012 and its share price is down more than 73% since then. However, the sources told CNBC that he is keen to stay on until the end of his term in order to oversee Deutsche Bank's 150th anniversary next year. Achleitner's term is due to end in 2022.

Paul Achleitner, chairman of Deutsche Bank AG
Michele Limina | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Achleitner has presided over a number of management changes at Deutsche Bank, from co-CEOs Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen to John Cryan and now Christian Sewing. Separate sources within the bank, who also wanted to remain anonymous, have told CNBC there are growing frustrations over the failed Commerzbank merger and an unsuccessful return to profitability.

However, ousting a chairman of the board is not easy in Germany. The shareholders will either need to wait until the next annual general meeting, which takes place in May 2020, or form a majority to call in an extraordinary shareholder meeting. For now, the pressure is building on the board to recalibrate its strategy.

Deutsche Bank has been under pressure for a number of years to trim its investment banking division. The bank reported massive losses in the third quarter of 2019, with a 5% fall in investment banking revenues from a year ago. Investment banking is a specific division related to the creation of capital for other companies, governments and other entities.

In July, Deutsche Bank announced it will cut 18,000 jobs for a global headcount of around 74,000 employees by 2022. The bank aims to reduce adjusted costs by a quarter to 17 billion euros ($19 billion) over the next several years.

Shares of Deutsche Bank were up 1.8% on Tuesday morning but are down more than 20% over a 12-month period.

- CNBC's Annette Weisbach contributed to this report.