• Former Intesa CEO Passera said among candidates under review
  • Bank said to draw up short list for board as soon as this week

UniCredit SpA is accelerating its search for a successor to departing Chief Executive Officer Federico Ghizzoni and may draw up a short list as soon as this week, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The bank’s nomination committee, supported by Egon Zehnder International Inc., is seeking to identify a small number of candidates for final assessment, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Former Intesa Sanpaolo SpA CEO Corrado Passera is also being considered for the role, according to the people.

Federico Ghizzoni
Federico Ghizzoni
Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

UniCredit shares have dropped about 17 percent since May 24, when Ghizzoni announced that he’s ready to step down. While the CEO’s departure was seen as paving the way for a capital increase, the drawn-out succession process comes at a time when Italian banks are facing investor scrutiny about their non-performing loans and holdings of government debt.

“Mr. Passera is a proven turnaround manager who laid the groundwork for Italy’s best bank Intesa Sanpaolo,” said Johan De Mulder an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd., with an outperform on Intesa Sanpaolo. “He would be a very good choice.”

Nagel, Maioli

Passera, 61, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, took over at Intesa in 2002. During his nine years as CEO, he oversaw the 34 billion-euro ($39 billion) acquisition of smaller competitor Sanpaolo IMI SpA in 2006, helping the bank become the country’s largest lender. In 2011, he was named economic development minister in a Cabinet appointed by Italian prime minister Mario Monti and founded center-right party Italia Unica three years later.

Corrado Passera
Corrado Passera
Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported Sunday that UniCredit is likely to name Passera as its next CEO. A spokesman for UniCredit declined to comment, while an official for Passera said the former CEO hasn’t been contacted by the lender.

Mediobanca SpA’s CEO Alberto Nagel, Unione di Banche Italiane SpA’s CEO Victor Massiah, the head of Credit Agricole SA’s Cariparma unit Giampiero Maioli, and Intesa Sanpaolo’s general manager Gaetano Micciche are also being considered for the job, one of the people said.

Ghizzoni, 60, agreed to step down as investors demanded a change in management. While the CEO led UniCredit through the sovereign-debt crisis, regulatory changes and Italy’s longest recession since World War II, he struggled to bolster returns as bad loans mounted, leaving the bank among Europe’s least capitalized lenders.

UniCredit, which has lost more than half of its value this year, rose as much as 7.6 percent on Monday and was up 4.2 percent to 2.51 euros as of 12:24 p.m. in Milan.

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