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Longest-Reigning Major EU Bank CEO Has One of Its Worst Records

  • SocGen shares have slid 75% over Oudea’s almost 13-year reign
  • Benevolent board has kept the CEO in the post, observers say
Frederic Oudea
Frederic OudeaPhotographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

On a cold day in January last year, Societe Generale’s board met at the headquarters of its Russian unit Rosbank, a modern building in central Moscow angled around a cylindrical glass structure. The annual gathering was being held there to honor the unit’s strong performance in 2019, but things quickly turned sour: Chief Executive Officer Frederic Oudea had an off-agenda item to discuss.

Just weeks earlier, Bloomberg had reported that the board had hired head-hunting firm Egon Zehnder to search for potential candidates to eventually succeed Oudea. Stepping up in front of the gathering that included Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Oudea seethed that such leaks were unacceptable and warned that there would be consequences for anyone involved. An uneasy silence fell over the room as Oudea berated the gathering, people with knowledge of the meeting said, signaling the power he held over the board members who are meant to oversee him.