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Credit Suisse and UBS: Gut takes a tumble

Did Nikolaus Senn, chairman of the embattled Union Bank of Switzerland, seize a merger proposal from CS chairman Rainer Gut and use it as a crude weapon against his bitterest enemy and major shareholder Martin Ebner? Here's the story whose climax a third of all Zurich inhabitants watched on television. But will it have a happy ending? And who pairs off with whom? David Shirreff reports

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Nikolaus Senn, the 69-year-old chairman of Union Bank of Switzerland, unwinding at his holiday home in Florida, gets a message from the office in Zurich. Rainer Gut, chairman of rival group CS Holding, wants to have a talk.

Senn is suddenly wrenched, from the relaxation of Palm Beach, back to the hot-house he left in Zurich. It's two weeks before his bank's annual general meeting (AGM) - the last he will see as chairman. It promises to be a cliff-hanger. According to the rumours that abound in the Swiss-German city Martin Ebner, maverick banker whose fund BK Vision is a major UBS shareholder, is close to amassing enough votes to block the appointment of Senn's designated successor, outgoing chief executive Robert Studer.

There are also rumours that Gut has joined forces with a group of institutional shareholders in UBS - Winterthur Insurance, Swiss Re-insurance, Roche Holding - either to support Ebner, or to push UBS in some other uncomfortable direction. Senn is curious to know what Gut has to say.

"I called to set your mind at rest," says Gut. "There's no truth in these rumours that we're planning to support BK Vision at your AGM."


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