U.S. Markets

Och-Ziff taps outsider as CEO, replacing founder

(Reuters) - Och-Ziff Capital Management on Tuesday appointed an outsider as chief executive to replace the investment firm’s founder, roughly four weeks after plans to name one of its top money managers as CEO were put on hold.

Robert Shafir, a veteran wealth management industry executive, will succeed Daniel Och on Feb. 5, the company said in a statement. Och, who founded the $32 billion firm in 1994 and had been chairman and CEO from the start, will remain chairman through March 2019.

The company’s share price climbed 5.22 percent to $2.42 late Tuesday afternoon.

The appointment is the most prominent fallout yet from a brewing battle between Och, other executives and board members over future leadership at the New York-based firm, known as Oz Management. On Monday, board member William Barr said he would leave the company because of succession issues.

Last year Och, 57, tapped James “Jimmy” Levin, 34, the firm’s co-chief investment officer, to eventually succeed him. But late last month, the firm told investors it was “not the right time” to promote Levin to CEO.

Shafir had been CEO of Credit Suisse Americas and co-head of its private banking and wealth management business. Before that he spent 17 years at Lehman Brothers. In a statement, Och called him a “world-class executive” who would be a great asset to the firm.

Levin, the co-chief investment officer who thought he would be moving into a bigger job, said he was excited about the future and looked forward to welcoming Shafir.

To some this suggested Levin would stay for now, which reassured some investors. “I have no plans to make sudden moves at this point,” said Michael Rosen, chief investment officer at Angeles Investment Advisors LLC, which invests in a fund managed by Levin.

The succession crisis broke into the public view just as Och-Ziff, which built itself into one of the hedge fund industry’s biggest firms by delivering steady returns and staying out of the limelight, was hitting its stride again.

Last year it rode bets on Asian stocks and U.S. corporate mergers to strong returns with its flagship OZ Master Fund Ltd, gaining an estimated 10.4 percent.

In 2016, the firm paid $412 million to settle criminal and civil charges with the U.S. government over allegations that a unit bribed African officials. This prompted clients to pull out billions, shrinking assets from $50 billion at its peak before the financial crisis in 2005.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio and Richard Chang