October 13, 2008 / 2:05 PM / 11 years ago

Goodwin's RBS dream was a deal too far

LONDON (Reuters) - Fred Goodwin became Europe’s highest profile casualty of the credit crunch after striking a deal too many at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L).

RBS was on Monday forced to get 20 billion pounds ($34.5 billion) in emergency funds. Chief Executive Goodwin stepped down, and Chairman Tom McKillop will follow next year.

Goodwin, a steely Scot, was the longest serving boss of a UK bank after becoming chief executive in 2000, but paid the price for his ill-timed takeover of parts of ABN AMRO last year.

Nicknamed “Fred the shred” after cutting jobs and squeezing out savings in his previous job and then again through a series of deals at RBS, he propelled the Edinburgh-based lender to a position as one of world’s top banks before a fall from grace over the past year.

RBS’s part in the consortium takeover of ABN was struck just as bank share valuations collapsed, stretching capital too thin and increasing losses on risky assets.

Goodwin has built a reputation for an eye for detail, and the way he ran RBS’s integration of NatWest has been held out as a model, but ABN proved a deal too far for shareholders.

He had already been criticized for the $10.5 billion takeover of U.S. bank Charter One in 2004, which prompted one analyst to accuse him of megalomania.

He came under further pressure after a 12 billion pound rights issue in June. A second fundraising is often accompanied by a CEO resignation, as other banks have also shown.

Asked on Monday what lessons he had learned from recent months, Goodwin said: “Try and avoid global financial crises would be one.”

Goodwin said he is waiving the right to a pay-off, adding: “I had to go sometime and we’re entering into a new chapter now ... and that needs new leadership.”


Goodwin, 49, was criticized for striking more than 20 deals while in charge and for being too dominant at RBS, but was respected inside and outside the bank for the operational efficiencies he drove through.

As a young CEO at smaller Scottish bank Clydesdale, Goodwin was quoted as saying he had no time for “cynics, spectators or dead wood.” That philosophy continued at RBS.

He is friendly and courteous but has a blunt, no-nonsense approach and a sometimes rocky relationship with London’s City investment community.

Goodwin is available to the press more than most bank CEOs, yet newspaper profiles on him are rare — reflecting his dislike of them. He is protective of his private life, and personal details won’t be found on the RBS website.

A keen golfer and Formula One motor racing fan — his golf partners have included Jack Nicklaus and Jackie Stewart — he once spent years restoring a Triumph Stag.

He also chairs the Prince’s Trust charity set up by Prince Charles that helps disadvantaged under-30s in business.

The electrician’s son was born and raised in Paisley, near Glasgow, and after attending the local grammar school and studying law at Glasgow University he qualified as an accountant and made his mark in banking by helping clean up the mess of collapsed BCCI bank in the early 1990s.

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