Mere days after the CFO of Zurich Insurance, Pierre Wauthier, was found dead (of suspected suicide) at his home in Zurich, the WSJ reports that CEO Josef Ackerman has abrutly resigned. Just 18 months after his appointment at Zurich (after leaving Deutsche Bank's top position), Ackerman's sudden resignation appears based on his view that the late CFO's family felt he had some responsibility for the death. Following a dismal 7% drop in Q1 profits and having struggled in a low-rate environment since Ackerman took the reins, the reasons for the CFO's suicide are not apparent but a statement from Ackerman oddly commented, "I have reasons to believe the family is of the opinion that I should take my share of responsibility."
Zurich Insurance Group Chairman Josef Ackermann abruptly quit on Thursday morning, saying the family of the firm's late finance chief felt he should shoulder some of the responsibility for the executive's apparent suicide.
Mr. Ackermann's resignation comes days after Pierre Wauthier, the insurance giant's chief financial officer, was found dead at his home south of Zurich. Authorities believe Mr. Wauthier's death was likely a suicide.
"I have reasons to believe the family is of the opinion that I should take my share of responsibility—as unfounded as any allegations might be," Mr. Ackermann said in the statement, adding that he was resigning to avoid any damage to Zurich's reputation. He couldn't be reached for comment.
A woman identifying herself as Mr. Wauthier's wife declined to comment.
...But Zurich Insurance has struggled in a low-interest-rate environment that has made reaching its targets more challenging.
In May, Zurich Insurance posted a 7% drop in profit for the first quarter, but assured investors it was on track to meet the targets it had set to achieve this year—such as boosting profitability at the general insurance business, its largest unit. But the company followed earlier this month by reporting another decline in profit for the second quarter.
The disclosure of Mr. Wauthier's death earlier this week drew unwanted attention to Zurich Insurance's challenges.