Hellenic’s benched CEO can return

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Hellenic Bank’s CEO, Oliver Gatzke, can return to work on Monday following the lifting of the board’s decision to sideline the German after allegations of market abuse.

Gatzke could be back at the helm, if he desires, after a probe into alleged market abuse carried out by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission found no proof of any wrongdoing.

The island’s second-largest lender had suspended its CEO pending a CySEC investigation into market manipulation.

The tension between the bank’s CEO and shareholders exploded at the latest AGM held in September, when the largest stakeholder, Demetra Holdings, essentially accused Gatzke of market abuse.

Demetra Holdings CEO Nearchos Ioannou accused him of pressuring staff into buying shares.

Demetra, at the time, was Hellenic’s largest shareholder, with a 21% stake. It is now second behind Eurobank Group, which holds 26% of its capital.

So far, the bank has not issued any official statement, nor has it been known whether the German banker will wish to resume his duties.

Inside information from Hellenic Bank states that the Executive Board is expected to issue a statement over the weekend.

Should Gatzke let bygones be bygones and reconcile with the bank’s board who benched him, it will be business as usual for Hellenic.

If he declines to return to his post, citing the latest incident, Hellenic could be liable for hefty compensations based on his contract.

Banking sources say the differences between the two sides are irreconcilable as their bad blood runs deep.

Sources told the Financial Mirror that for some time, major shareholders had not been on good terms with Gatzke, whom they perceive to be accountable for the bank not hitting its profit targets.

They said that major shareholders also appear dissatisfied with how Gatzke handled an early retirement scheme, which should have been introduced in the first months after taking over in March 2021.

Hellenic, through Gatzke, had announced their intentions to reduce their staff at an AGM held in late 2021.

This year the bank announced it would be going ahead with redundancies instead of the standard practice of offering an early retirement scheme, on Gatzke’s instructions.

The bank’s redundancy announcement sparked a fierce reaction from staff who threatened strike action.

Hellenic backed down and gave 450 employees the option of early retirement packages of up to €200,000.

The plan was executed in Gatzke’s absence.

Hellenic’s share on the CSE closed on Friday at €1.34, registering a drop of 0.74% and with a volume of €22,731.