Founding Baer family gives up control of Swiss private bank

Monday, January 17th 2005, 10:20 am
By: News On 6

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Private bank Julius Baer Holding AG said Monday that its founding family would give up control of the company as it introduces new voting rights on a ``one share, one vote'' principle.

Michael Baer, a member of the executive board and head of the private banking division, will leave in mid-2005 ``due to differing views regarding the implementation of the private banking strategy,'' the company said.

According to a plan to be presented at an April 12 general meeting, the Baer family will reduce its voting rights to 18 percent, in line with its share holding.

``Julius Baer will be the first Swiss private bank to open its ownership and control fully to the public,'' said Chairman Raymond Baer. ``This provides the Group with new perspectives for future growth.''

The company also said its unaudited net profit for 2004 more than doubled, to 211 million Swiss francs ($179 million) from 82 million francs for the year earlier. It will disclose its full 2004 financial results March 9.

Julius Baer's business model, which focuses on private banking and asset management for private and institutional clients, as well as trading, will be unchanged, the company said.

``We will pursue our business strategy with a focus on private banking,'' added Chief Executive Walter Knabenhans, who will take charge of the private banking business on an interim basis. ``This should enable us to consolidate and expand our position as the leading Swiss private bank.''

Julius Baer was founded in 1890 and adopted its current name in 1901, and has since been run by a succession of Baer family members. Michael Baer joined the bank in 1992.

The cloistered world of Swiss private banking caters discreetly to the very wealthy, often requiring minimum deposits of $1 million. Private banking customers pay a premium for sophisticated financial advice from expert money managers and personal service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In turn, the partners in a private bank pledge their personal assets and assume unlimited liability.

Julius Baer shares were up 6.5 percent in afternoon trading at 407.25 Swiss francs ($345.01) on the Zurich exchange.