RUTH SUNDERLAND: Horta-Osorio leaving Lloyds

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Fond farewell?: Antonio Horta-Osorio


Antonio Horta-Osorio, the polished Portuguese chief executive of Lloyds Bank, has notched up a number of achievements in his time at the High Street lender. 

For him, it has been a lucrative tenure in which he has amassed a fortune of more than £56m in salary, bonuses and incentives. 

But for long-suffering shareholders – including around 2.4m small private investors – his time at the top has been dire. 

Fond farewell?: Antonio Horta-Osorio’s time at Lloyds has been a lucrative tenure in which he has amassed a fortune of more than £56m in salary, bonuses and incentives

Lloyds’ shares have almost halved on his watch, despite his success at turning the bank from a train wreck after the financial crisis into a profitable business once more. He will be remembered most, however, for two dramatic episodes. 

The first was his stay in The Priory clinic in south-west London, where, soon after taking the job in 2011, he checked in, suffering from exhaustion and insomnia. 

His collapse had been brought on by his intense workaholism and an inability to delegate. At that point, many thought his sojourn at Lloyds was over before it had barely begun. Instead, Horta-Osorio, universally known as AHO, bounced back with the resilience that has been one of his trademarks. 

The second career-threatening event came in 2016, with the revelation of a clandestine relationship with his bluestocking former mistress, Dr Wendy Piatt. 

Then the director general of the Russell Group of top universities, the academic bore a striking similarity in looks to Ana, his willowy wife of nearly 30 years, with whom he has three grown-up children. Usually, in the cut-throat upper tiers of the FTSE 100, the least sign of weakness or scandal can be enough to cost a chief executive his or her job. 

It is a testament to the abilities of the tanned and slick-haired Horta-Osorio that he survived not one, but two, high-profile incidents, and will have led the bank for more than ten years by the time he leaves next summer.

Revelation: Dr Wendy Piatt

Revelation: Dr Wendy Piatt

It looked as though financial matters were the last thing on his mind when he was photographed with Piatt in 2016 in Singapore where they were enjoying a tryst in a luxury hotel. 

They were pictured walking hand in hand, on boat trips, at expensive dinners and taking selfies. 

AHO rode out the ensuing furore and remained in his Gresham Street office – and his marriage. In the aftermath of his stay in The Priory, to his great credit , he turned his personal experience to the benefit of others by campaigning to remove the stigma from mental health problems. The affair with Piatt seemed to leave lasting wounds, perhaps because he was accustomed to a deferential media in his native Portugal, and he struggled to grasp why his aides were unable to keep salacious stories about him out of the press. 

AHO is a smooth operator with a taste in normal times for tennis, a glass of chilled white wine in the American Bar at the Savoy after work or drinks at the posh KX club in Chelsea.

He can claim to have restored Lloyds from a basket case when he took over, due to the disastrous decision under previous bosses to take over Halifax Bank of Scotland in the thick of the financial crisis. 

Horta-Osorio managed to more than repay the money taxpayers spent bailing it out. He successfully offloaded £200billion of toxic assets, eliminated £200billion of debt and turned a loss in 2010 into a profit of more than £7billion last year. On the debit side of his personal balance sheet, however, was the PPI debacle where customers were sold rip-off insurance policies when they took out loans. His decision to compensate customers, though an honourable one, proved vastly expensive. Instead of the £3billion initially estimated , Lloyds ended up shelling out £22billion. 

He has also come under heavy fire for the so-called HBOS Reading outrage which embroiled TV star Noel Edmonds and scores of other entrepreneurs who were fleeced by rogue bankers and consultants. 

The abuses took place before AHO’s time, but his handling of the aftermath has been widely criticised. Friends say at 56 he has at least one big role left in him. He is believed to covet the top slot at Spanish bank Santander, occupied by Ana Botin who took over the family bank from her late father. She and Horta-Osorio are understood to have a frosty relationship. 

An Anglophile, he has a British passport and bought a townhouse in Chelsea, so another job here is a possibility. Some, however, believe he may have a future in Portuguese politics. 

Horta-Osorio says he views his departure from Lloyds after an eventful decade with ‘mixed emotions’. 

Many of his shareholders, small businesses and personal customers may well feel the same. 

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