November 6, 2018 / 6:45 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 2-Swiss asset manager GAM looks for new CEO to lead turnaround

* CEO Alexander Friedman agrees with board to step down

* Board member David Jacob becomes interim CEO

* GAM has been hit by outflows, botched acquisition

* Shares down more than 2 percent (Adds comments from investors, analysts)

By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and John Miller

ZURICH, Nov 6 (Reuters) - The chief executive of GAM Holding stepped down on Tuesday, leaving the Swiss asset manager to look for a new leader to reverse billions in asset outflows and recover from a series of problems including a botched acquisition.

GAM appointed board member David Jacob as interim CEO, after it said Alexander Friedman and the board agreed the company would be best served by new leadership.

Jacob, former chief executive of investment manager Rogge Global Partners and a board member since April 2017, wants to boost profitability “as soon as possible”, GAM said.

Analysts expect such efforts to focus on cost cuts, though one top-20 shareholder said the latest of several executive changes may be a case of too little, too late. The company’s compliance chief quit last month.

“It’s facing a difficult situation and we’re not sure if the board can find any solution in an appropriate time frame,” the shareholder said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

GAM is looking internally and externally for a permanent successor, a spokesman said, with no deadline set for the new CEO to be named.

The company’s shares were down 2.3 percent at 1030 GMT, and have slumped more than 60 percent in a year.

GAM assets suffered a 17.7 billion Swiss franc ($17.6 billion) hit in the third quarter due to slumping markets. The suspension of absolute return bond fund (ARBF) director Tim Haywood during a misconduct investigation may also have prompted some investors to withdraw funds.

Before that, the company took a 59 million franc impairment charge on its acquisition of British hedge fund Cantab Capital Partners, writing down more than a quarter of the $217 million it paid in 2016.

“They really have an urge to rebalance costs as the revenue is melting very quickly,” Bank Vontobel analyst Andreas Venditti said. “There the problem starts: where shall you cut and how much?”

Amid its missteps, GAM has become potential prey, with media reporting it rebuffed an offer from Schroders for its hedge fund unit.

Friedman’s departure, coupled with GAM’s reticence to sell off a prized asset separately, could suggest GAM is now trying to find a buyer for the whole group, Venditti said.

Zuercher Kantonalbank analysts said Friedman’s departure may mollify some investors, though given its series of problems “it was truly remarkable how long it took GAM to make this step.”

$1 = 1.0047 Swiss francs Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Simon Jessop and John Miller; additional reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Richard Pullin and Mark Potter

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