Och-Ziff taps outsider as CEO, replacing founder

(Reuters) – Och-Ziff Capital Management on Tuesday appointed an outsider as chief executive to replace the investment firm’s founder, roughly four weeks after plans to appoint an insider as the next chief were put on hold.

Robert Shafir, a veteran wealth management industry executive, will succeed Daniel Och as chief executive officer on Feb. 5, the company said in a statement. Och, who founded the $32 billion firm in 1994 and had been chairman and CEO from the start, will remain chairman through March 2019.

The move is the most prominent fallout yet from a brewing battle between executives and board members over future leadership at the New York-based firm, known as Oz Management. On Monday, board member William Barr announced plans to leave with the company saying his departure was related to succession issues.

Late last month, the firm told investors it was “not the right time” to promote co-Chief Investment Officer James “Jimmy” Levin to CEO. The firm also said Och and the firm’s board of directors hoped the 34-year-old Levin, Och’s longtime protégé and heir apparent, would remain as co-CIO.

Shafir had previously been CEO of Credit Suisse Americas and co-head of its private banking and wealth management business. Before joining Credit Suisse, Shafir spent 17 years at Lehman Brothers. In a statement, Och called him a “world-class executive” and said he will be a great asset to the firm.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the board had wanted to move ahead with the succession plan to let Levin take over this year but that Och soured on Levin and refused to accept the plan. Och, through a spokesman, and Levin did not respond to requests last week for comment.

On Tuesday, Levin said he looks forward to “welcoming Rob” and said he was “excited about the future.” To some this suggests that he will stay, for now.

Och-Ziff built itself into one of the hedge fund industry’s biggest firms by staying out of the limelight and delivering steady returns that delighted pension funds.

But it made headlines when a subsidiary admitted to bribing African officials and after paying $412 million to settle criminal and civil charges with the U.S. government. This prompted clients to pull out billions, shrinking assets from $50 billion at its peak before the financial crisis in 2005.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio



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