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Horst Köhler, President, Sparkassen

One of Germany's great tacticians and diplomatic fixers, Horst Köhler is poised to step up from German domestic sagas to an international arena as the next president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

After spending vital career years in a provincial organization, Köhler has a final chance at the age of 55 to re-establish his name in international finance. If he is successful in London, Köhler may yet advance further still - to the IMF's top position.

Nominated to succeed Jacques de Larosière at the EBRD, the German is known only by his public face: he has been president of the German Savings Bank Association for the past five years. An intensely private man who is respected rather than loved by colleagues, Köhler has built a wall between his private life and the outside world.

If one fact reveals Köhler's story, it is his close bond with Germany's chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Even the EBRD nomination reflects that, since it is primarily a tribute to the German government's tact under fire during the Franco-German spat over who should head the European Central Bank. If Köhler goes to London, he will be the first German head of a supranational financial institution for decades.

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