Investment banker to oversee Lloyds and RBS sale

The body charged with managing British taxpayer-owned banking assets said today that it had pulled off a "real coup" in hiring investment banker Jim O'Neil to oversee the sale of stakes in Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The body charged with managing British taxpayer-owned banking assets said today that it had pulled off a "real coup" in hiring investment banker Jim O'Neil to oversee the sale of stakes in Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.

He will join UK Financial Investments (UKFI) in October as head of market investments from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he acts as head of the international corporate finance and restructuring.

Mr O'Neil, 43, led the BoA Merrill Lynch team that advised Lloyds on its mammoth rights issue last year - a deal that helped the bank avoid handing over an even bigger stake to the Government.

He will be paid a salary of £180,000 (€94,228) at UKFI, where he replaces John Crompton, another ex-Merrill Lynch banker, who resigned earlier this year.

Mr O'Neil will also take on a combined role encompassing the work done by Tim Sykes, UKFI's head of market investments strategy, who recently stood down.

Robin Budenberg, chief executive of UKFI, said: "Jim has a rare combination of skills in both equity and debt capital markets and in the banking sector.

"Furthermore, Jim has a deserved reputation for integrity and attention to detail, which will be key in meeting the substantial challenges he will face."

The British government has not set a timetable for selling its stakes in Lloyds and RBS, but is said to be looking at divesting the holdings in the coming months.

Mr O'Neil said: "Disposing of these stakes in an orderly manner will be among the most important events in the capital markets over the coming years.

"It is my intention to use all of my experience to protect and create value for the taxpayer from these investments."

Mr O'Neil has worked at Merrill Lynch for 17 years, having joined in 1993 in New York before relocating to London in 1999.

UKFI was set up on November 3, 2008 at the height of the financial crisis after the Government was forced to nationalise Northern Rock and bail out Lloyds, HBOS - since bought by Lloyds - and RBS in return for stakes.

While Mr O'Neil will not be working on any sale of Northern Rock, his remit will cover the 41% stake in Lloyds and the 83% holding in RBS.

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