* Juan Maria Nin to be replaced by CFO
* Bank says departure is "by mutual agreement"
* Banker says relations low between CEO and chair
* Departure as group eyes acquisitions
(Adds comments and details)
By Jesús Aguado
MADRID, June 30 Spain's CaixaBank said
on Monday its board had agreed the departure of Chief Executive
Officer Juan Maria Nin in a surprise move that marks the start
of a new era for the acquisitive lender.
In a statement, the Barcelona-based bank said Nin, 60, who
was also deputy chairman, would leave "by mutual agreement". But
sources with knowledge of boardroom politics at CaixaBank said
the relationship between Chairman Isidro Faine and his number
two had deteriorated over the last few months.
Nin will be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Gonzalo
Gortazar, 48, who has held senior positions at La Caixa for the
last five years and previously worked for Morgan Stanley and
Bank of America.
"This ushers in a new era at the group," a spokeswoman said,
linking the stepping down to a wider restructuring at the bank
to meet European rules on professionalising the management of
former savings banks.
In the statement, Faine praised Nin's "enormously positive"
contribution including the listing of investment vehicle
Criteria in 2007 and of CaixaBank in 2011, as well as a series
of acquisitions made under his leadership.
With Nin at the helm, Caixabank has been one of the most
acquisitive banks during Spain's financial crisis, snapping up
bailed out peers to grow market share.
Spain's third biggest banking group after Santander
and BBVA, Caixabank bought bailed-out lender Banco de
Valencia, CaixaGirona and Banca Civica.
Earlier this month Nin told the Wall Street Journal
newspaper the Barcelona-based bank was considering making an
offer for Barclays' retail business in Spain, which analysts
value at up to 2.2 billion euros ($3 billion).
It was also interested in fellow Catalan bank Catalunya
Caixa, nationalised in 2012, he said.
A banker who has attended meetings with the two men said the
departure of Nin before the completion of Europe-wide stress
tests, due to be completed in October, showed just how badly
relations had deteriorated.
Some of the country's lenders fear excessively harsh
economic scenarios could be used in assessing their strength,
although most have said they expect few major surprises from the
"It's also not good timing when Nin himself has just
recognised that the company was looking at buying Barclays (in
Spain) and Catalunya Bank," said the banker.
Nin would continue to represent the La Caixa group on the
boards of oil major Repsol, Austrian bank Erste Bank
and Spanish utility Gas Natural, the lender
The younger Gortazar will now face the task of drawing up a
new strategic plan for Caixabank for 2015-2018, expected to be
presented to investors in the next few months, said a source
with knowledge of the bank.
(Writing by Sarah Morris; Editing by Julien Toyer and David