Former Zurich CEO Commits Suicide

By Jan-Henrik Förster and Jan Schwalbe | May 31, 2016

Martin Senn, the Zurich Insurance Group AG chief executive officer who stepped down in a December reshuffle, has committed suicide, the company said in a statement on Monday. He was 59.

The family informed Zurich Insurance that Senn had taken his own life on Friday, according to the statement. “We are profoundly shocked by the news of the sudden death,” the company said.

Senn was found in his holiday house in Klosters, a Swiss ski resort, Blick newspaper reported. The cantonal police of Grisons wouldn’t confirm the death but said officers had been deployed on Friday in connection with Senn.
‘Huge Loss’

“This is a huge loss; Martin Senn was an amazing person,” said Martin Naville, CEO of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, where Senn had served as president. “Human beings are hard to understand but we have to accept his decision.”

Senn in December acknowledged “setbacks” in the months before his departure after higher-than-expected claims at the general-insurance unit forced the company to abandon a takeover bid for RSA Insurance Group Plc. The company later announced an overhaul of the general-insurance business.

During Senn’s five years as CEO, Zurich Insurance rose about 19 percent and paid out record dividends of 17 Swiss francs a share. In his biggest acquisition, he bought a 51 percent stake in Banco Santander SA’s insurance division for $1.67 billion in 2011. Two years later, Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier committed suicide and Josef Ackermann quit.

‘Conservative Approach’

Senn’s “conservative approach” helped Zurich Insurance perform well during the financial crisis, when he was the chief investment officer, said Andreas Schaefer, an analyst at Bankhaus Lampe. “Zurich’s asset side never caused any problems and the company did well compared with its peers,” he said. Schaefer has a hold rating on the stock.

Mario Greco, the former CEO of Italy’s Assicurazioni Generali SpA, assumed Senn’s role in March. UBS Group AG CEO Sergio Ermotti was set to take over as president of the chamber of commerce in June.

Senn started at Zurich in 2006 as CIO and became CEO in 2010. He joined from Switzerland’s biggest life insurer, Swiss Life Holding AG, and held several positions at Credit Suisse Group AG.

When he was 26, Senn became treasurer of the Hong Kong branch of Schweizerischer Bankverein, today known as UBS Group AG.

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