BNP Paribas on hunt for exec

THE HUNT for someone to run one of Europe&rsquo;s largest asset managers has begun after Richard Wohanka stepped down as chief executive of Fortis Investments ahead of its merger with the fund management operations of French lender BNP Paribas.<br /><br />Wohanka leaves the company before a tie-up expected to create the fifth-largest asset management business in Europe, with around &euro;763m (&pound;660m) funds under management.<br /><br />BNP is to absorb the unit as part of a joint nationalisation of Fortis Bank by the governments of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.<br /><br />Shareholders initially voted down the carve up of the bank, but reconvened in April to approve a &euro;10.4bn cash-plus-share sale of most of the bank to BNP Paribas, including Fortis Investments.<br /><br />Fortis Investments had assets under management of &euro;158bn as of the end of March, while BNP Paribas&rsquo; own funds arm had some &euro;230bn.<br /><br />Wohanka joined as chief executive in 2001, having served in the same role at WestLB Asset Management. He earned a reputation as a ruthless reformer with wholesale changes to staff but delivered increased profits.<br /><br />His departure, coupled with the death in April of Gilles Glicenstein, chief executive of BNP Paribas Investment Partners, means the bank may now look outside the group for someone to run its asset management operations.<br /><br />BNP Paribas was hit earlier this week by a rumour that one of its executives had been on the Air France-KLM flight which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. The bank issued a statement saying that neither chief executive Baudouin Prot nor the president of its supervisory board, Michel Pebereau, had been on board.