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CL losses sink job of ex-boss

Credit Lyonnais’ massive 1993 loss of 6.9 billion francs ($ 1.2 billion) has claimed a surprise victim, with reports that former bank chairman Jean-Yves Haberer has been sacked from his new job because of his CL record.

Haberer left CL last November and was appointed by the government to be chairman of the smaller state-controlled Credit National bank.

Negative public reaction to the huge CL losses and anger among politicians over the size of the required government bailout (the bank is to get $ 844 million in fresh funds) now appear to have cost Haberer his job.

Haberer headed Credit Lyonnais from 1988 to November 1993. Under his chairmanship, CL pursued an aggressive international expansion that turned it into Europe’s largest bank (in terms of assets).

Critics, though, say the bank should have been more careful in its lending, especially toward the real estate and film industries. CL funded Giancarlo Parretti’s ill-fated takeover of MGM/UA and now owns the studio.

On Tuesday, before he was officially fired, Haberer demanded an inquiry into his chairmanship to establish who was to blame for the losses, saying he had been pressured by the former Socialist government to support strategic economic sectors no matter the cost.

Economy Minister Edmond Alphandery announced that there indeed would be an official inquiry into the matter.

Earlier this month, conservative parliamentarian Francois D’Aubert renewed his calls for an investigation into the bank. Last year D’Aubert published a hugely critical book, “Dirty Money,” dealing in length with CL’s film financing. The bank unsuccessfully tried to sue the author.

Meanwhile, new CL chairman Jean Peyrelevade says he thinks the bank could be ready for privatization by the end of 1995. Announcing the 1993 results earlier this month, Peyrelevade said CL should hit break-even this year.

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