March 24, 2017 / 3:36 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Bank of Ireland CEO Boucher to retire before year-end

3 Min Read

* Boucher took charge shortly after bank sought state bailout

* Won key investment before bringing bank back to profit

* Bank says succession process now under way (Adds detail, finance minister quotes)

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN, March 24 (Reuters) - Bank of Ireland Chief Executive Richie Boucher will retire before the end of the year after almost a decade in charge of the lender he guided from the brink of nationalisation to lead a revival across the sector.

Boucher, who joined Ireland's largest lender by assets in 2003, headed its corporate banking and retail divisions before being appointed CEO in February 2009, shortly after the bank, like all other Irish lenders, sought a state bailout.

The bank, 14 percent owned by the state, did not name a new boss but said the succession process was under way.

Under the matter-of-fact, Zambian-born banker, the bank became the only domestically owned lender to stay out of state control when it attracted 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of private investment at the height of the euro zone debt crisis in 2011.

The bank returned to profitability three years later and after handing the state a profit on its rescue funds, it recently embarked on a four-year technology investment that Boucher said he would leave to someone else.

"I will be 59 in August and I feel it best for the group that someone else leads the next stage of development," Boucher said in a statement, adding he would continue to lead the group while facilitating the transition to his successor.

The bank has a former CEO of a major Irish stock market company among its ranks, deputy chairman Patrick Kennedy, who led bookmaker Paddy Power from 2006 to 2014.

Boucher, once described by an Irish lawmaker and current government minister as having "a hide like a rhino", had an egg flung at him in 2011 by an irate shareholder, one of many who lost out when Irish bank shares collapsed.

He told a 2015 parliamentary inquiry that he had made mistakes in the run-up to the crash but that in the six-and-a-half years that followed had "put action behind words."

Boucher, who joined Greek lender Eurobank as a non-executive director in January, said last month that Bank of Ireland expected to pay its first dividend in a decade next year after Brexit forced it to delay plans by 12 months.

"Mr Boucher assumed his role as Chief Executive Officer at a time of severe stress for the Bank of Ireland Group and indeed for the Irish banking sector in general," Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said in a statement.

"Under his stewardship, Bank of Ireland navigated its way successfully through these difficult times. I wish to thank him for his commitment, professionalism and drive." ($1 = 0.9259 euros) (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Potter/Keith Weir)

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