Ashish Thakkar to leave the board of Atlas Mara, the African banking group he co-founded with Bob Diamond

Lucy White
Thakkar will remain involved with Atlas Mara (Source: Getty)

Former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond is to be left as the sole founder on the board of African financial services group Atlas Mara, as it was announced today that co-founder Ashish Thakkar would be leaving.

His departure from the board comes as a result of new shareholder Fairfax Africa, a Canada-based investment fund, wanting to appoint four new directors after it acquired a 42.37 per cent stake last month.

Read more: Bob Diamond's Atlas Mara sells 35 per cent stake to Fairfax to fund Nigerian expansion

Tonye Cole, chair of the nomination committee, will also step down to make room for Fairfax's new board members including Michael Wilkerson, Richard Boucher, Quinn McLean and Hisham Ezz Al-Arab.

“Ashish played an important role supporting the team in our fintech business line and government and stakeholder relations, and will remain available to support us in these areas. Tonye will remain engaged in our Nigeria operations given the importance of Nigeria for our strategy,” said Diamond.

Thakkar fell foul of the UK courts earlier this year, as a high court judge ruled he was attempting to conceal his sizeable fortune from his estranged wife in divorce proceedings. It has not yet been decided how much he owes to author Meera Manek.

As a non-independent director, City A.M. understands that Thakkar felt it would be best that he stepped down to retain the balance between the remaining independent board members and Fairfax's new non-independents.

Who are the new board members?

Wilkerson is chief executive of Fairfax, and was formerly managing partner at Africa-focused investment firm AgriGroupe. Earlier in his career he was a managing director at Citigroup in New York.

Boucher, who was born in Zambia, stepped down as the chief executive of the Bank of Ireland last weekend. He has also worked at Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest Bank, Ulster Bank and the Industrial Credit Corporation.

McLean is vice president of Fairfax's investment advisor, Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel, and is a director of several investment groups across Kuwait, South Africa, the US and Canada.

Ezz Al-Arab is managing director of the Commercial International Bank of Egypt, and previously worked for institutions including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch.

Another departure

Atlas Mara's chief financial officer Arina McDonald also announced she would step down today, to relocate back to South Africa for personal reasons and to pursue other interests.

Group managing director of strategy and investments Kenroy Dowers will assume the role until a permanent hire is selected.

Atlas Mara has been working to turn around its performance, as investors were disappointed by results in the years following its 2013 public listing. Last month it seemed this was paying off, as a record set of results caused shares to jump.

Read more: Bob Diamond's turnaround plan for Atlas Mara pays off with record half-year profits

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