UBS says communications head Willi resigns

ZURICH Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:27pm BST

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ZURICH Oct 14 (Reuters) - UBS's communications chief Michael Willi will leave the Swiss bank by April, according to a memorandum seen by Reuters on Sunday, as management struggles to unite behind a plan to cut jobs.

Willi is resigning to take up an undisclosed new position elsewhere, UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti and operating chief Ulrich Koerner said in the memo to staff on Friday. UBS confirmed the contents of the memo.

As a standing guest at meetings of the Swiss bank's 12-person top management board, Willi has had a front-row seat to management strife over a looming revamp, expected to include job cuts.

Some UBS managers are hampering Ermotti's efforts to make big cutbacks, especially in investment banking, sources both inside and close to the bank told Reuters.

On Saturday, UBS chief Ermotti issued a surprise rebuttal to media reports of thousands more job cuts.

With speculation rife more cuts may come as soon as third-quarter earnings due on Oct. 30, Ermotti told staff an ongoing business review had not been finalised, and urged employees to refrain from taking grievances to the media.

At the same time, he again braced staff for more to come on top of existing cuts of 3,500 staff.

The 46-year-old Swiss-born Willi, who survived several management culls, including of CEO Peter Wuffli and former chairman Marcel Ospel after losses of more than $50 billion and a Swiss government bailout in 2008, leads a team of 250 people and a budget of roughly 250 million Swiss francs ($268.17 million).

Besides media relations, Willi oversaw UBS's sponsoring efforts, which include track and field's Diamond League. He also spearheaded advertising efforts, including a global "we will not rest" campaign, which was scrapped late last year after an alleged rogue trader incurred $2 billion in losses at the bank.

Willi is the second top communications executive to leave in recent months. Swiss communications chief and former Tages-Anzeiger editor Peter Hartmeier, who reported to Willi, is taking early retirement next year.

UBS said Willi's successor will be named in due course. ($1 = 0.9323 Swiss francs) (Reporting By Katharina Bart)

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