Ossi Gruebel, the chief executive of UBS, told Euromoney yesterday (Wednesday) that rumours linking Bill Winters, the former co-head of investment banking at JPMorgan, with his own position were without foundation.
No, forget it, was Gruebels response when the rumours were put to him in an interview at UBSs headquarters in Zurich.
Speculation among London-based bankers and headhunters has been growing in recent days that the highly-regarded Winters would renew his banking career by taking over either as chief executive of UBS group, with Gruebel moving up to chairman, or alternatively as the chief executive of its investment banking unit. One banker who knows Winters well told Euromoney this week that either role would be a good fit and that Winters might be open to the job.
The stories may have been prompted by the fact that, under the terms of his departure from JPMorgan in late September, Winters will be free to start a new job in February, Euromoney understands.
Having successfully guided JPMorgan through the credit crisis, and with a reputation as a gifted banker who generated great loyalty from his colleagues, Winters signature on his next contract will be highly valued. He has also let it be known to friends that he wants to remain in Europe rather than relocate to the US.
The prospect of an American investment banker with a storied career in derivatives markets taking over UBS would have been unthinkable until recently. But the success of Brady Dougan as chief executive at Credit Suisse a role he inherited from Gruebel makes it much more possible.
A partnership with Winters might replicate the partnership Gruebel enjoyed at Credit Suisse with Dougan. However Gruebel says there are no plans to change the present chairman or chief executive of UBS and no need to consider any such change.
Gruebel was a surprise appointment as chief executive of UBS 11 months ago. His mission was to restore the credibility and stability of the bank after two years of crises related to the credit crunch and problems in its US wealth management division.
At 66 years of age, and having been lured out of retirement last year, many bankers have wondered how long Gruebel will stay at the helm of UBS. Gruebel says that his objective is to stay until UBS has returned to sustained profitability, a process outlined as a three to five year plan at an investor day last year.
Gruebels comments came during a wide-ranging interview that will be published in the February edition of Euromoney.
Should Winters take the investment banking role, which is currently jointly held by Alex Wilmot-Sitwell and Carsten Kengeter, then a successful tenure would certainly put him in line to eventually take over from Gruebel.