MILAN – Italy's biggest retail bank, Intesa Sanpaolo , is in the midst of a management struggle between its chief executive and a board member backed by an important shareholder, people close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
However, several sources said they did not think that Enrico Cucchiani's position as the bank's CEO was under any immediate threat.
Intesa declined to comment.
Reports about internal criticism of Cucchiani come as Intesa Sanpaolo and other Italian investors reached a deal with Telefonica that will allow the Spanish group to tighten its control over Telecom Italia .
"Cucchiani wants to manage the bank in a totally autonomous way," said one of the sources, adding that this had led to conflicts with the chairman of the bank's supervisory board, octogenarian Giovanni Bazoli.
Cucchiani was appointed CEO of Intesa in November 2011 after the bank's long-standing chief executive, Corrado Passera, joined the government led by former prime minister Mario Monti.
Another source said there was no sign that any drastic decision could be taken to oust Cucchiani.
"There is malaise at the bank, even strong malaise, over Cucchiani's management style, but as of today there are no elements that would suggest he's about to be ousted," the source said.
The source added that opponents of Cucchiani did not have a majority of the shares and that decisions about changing the top management were usually taken unanimously by shareholders.
Giuseppe Guzzetti, chairman of a banking foundation that owns 5 percent of Intesa, on Tuesday denied a report that he and Bazoli were due to meet the governor of the Bank of Italy to discuss Cucchiani's ouster.
A third source said Cucchiani was seen as market-friendly, meritocratic and opposed to Italy's old style of relationship capitalism. Intesa's shares have risen by more than 50 percent to 1.7 euros since his appointment was announced.
(Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, Paola Arosio and Lisa Jucca, writing by Silvia Aloisi, editing by Alessandra Galloni and Leslie Gevirtz)