* Raymond Baer to become honorary chairman from April
* To head committee overseeing cooperation with U.S. probe
* Conclusion of shift from family business to public company
* Daniel Sauter to become non-executive chairman of Baer
By Martin de Sa'Pinto and Emma Thomasson
ZURICH, March 19 The chairman of Swiss private
bank Julius Baer will head a special committee dealing with a
U.S. tax probe after leaving his current role, underlining the
pressure Swiss banks are feeling from claims they helped wealthy
Americans dodge taxes.
Raymond Baer, a 52-year-old member of the bank's founding
family who has been at the group almost 25 years and served as
chairman for nine, will become honorary chairman of the bank as
of its next shareholder meeting in April.
As part that new role, he has been elected to chair a
special committee overseeing cooperation with U.S. authorities,
the bank said on Monday.
Julius Baer is among 11 banks - including Credit
Suisse - under investigation by the U.S. Department of
Justice. The indictment of Swiss private bank Wegelin in
February has heightened tension among private bankers fearful of
being next in the firing line.
In February, Julius Baer said it expected to have to hand
over client data and to pay a fine as part of the U.S. probe
into wealthy Americans who stashed their money in Swiss banks to
avoid paying taxes.
"Raymond J. Baer will continue to support the Bank in
finding constructive solutions for the past chapters affecting
Julius Baer and the banking industry at large," the bank said.
A spokesman said Baer's departure from the chairman's role
had been planned for some time, and was not related to his role
on the special committee.
The spokesman said the committee was formed when the U.S.
issues first surfaced. He added the committee would also deal
with the bank's other legacy tax issues in Europe.
Last April, Baer said it had agreed to pay the German tax
authorities 50 million euros to close a tax probe.
"This marks the exit of the last family member from official
top positions within the bank and continues the process of
turning Julius Baer from a family-run bank to a 'normal' quoted
company," said Kepler analyst Dirk Becker.
"We stick to our 'Hold' rating on the stock as we believe
its multiples are too high and the bank might face an expensive
settlement with the U.S. about the cross-border tax settlement."
Baer shares were down 1.7 percent at 36.88 francs by 0911
GMT, lagged a 0.9 percent weaker European banking index.
The bank was established by Julius Baer in 1890 and went
public in 1980. The Baer family gave up the majority of its
voting rights in 2005 when the bank launched a major expansion.
The family's stake is now under 3 percent.
"The metamorphosis to turn our company from family business
into a public company in all aspects is concluded," Raymond
Baer, who is the last member of the founding family involved in
the bank's management, said in a statement.
"Julius Baer has remained small enough to care, but big
enough to matter, and retains a deeply entrenched family
culture," added Baer, who headed the group's private banking
business for ten years before becoming chairman.
The board nominated Daniel Sauter , a veteran of commodities
trader Glencore and mining company Xstrata and
a board member since 2007, to take over as chairman.
A bank spokesman said the Baer family was not looking to
reduce its stake in the bank.