Monday, September 11, 2006

BMO's Comper Says He'll Retire in April 2007

Bloomberg, Frederic Tomesco and Doug Alexander, 11 September 2006

Bank of Montreal Chief Executive Officer Anthony Comper said he plans to step down on April 24 after more than eight years as head of Canada's fourth-largest bank.

"It's my 62nd birthday and that is the normal retirement date of the chief executive officer of the bank," Comper told reporters today after a luncheon speech at the Canadian Club of Montreal. "The next (annual general meeting) will be my last one."

Comper, 61, who joined the bank in 1967, said at the annual meeting last March in Calgary that next year's meeting on March 1 would be his last. He didn't give a specific date for his retirement. The bank's board of directors will make the final decision on Comper's retirement date, said spokesman Paul Deegan.

The bank promoted William Downe to chief operating officer in January, prompting speculation he may succeed Comper. Comper said today the board hasn't chosen his successor, and that a decision will be made closer to the date of his retirement.

Comper has been focusing on U.S. acquisitions to increase profit, and has said he'd consider spending as much as $2 billion to expand the Chicago-based Harris Bank unit. The bank hasn't made a U.S. acquisition of more than C$100 million ($89.2 million) since December 2004.

Bank of Montreal shares fell 32 cents to C$65.50 at 4:15 p.m. trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and have risen less than 1 percent this year. The shares have returned about 14 percent a year, including dividends, since Comper was named CEO, compared with a 12 percent annual gain in the Standard & Poor's/TSX Financials Index.

Comper said he plans work on a foundation he set up with his wife Elizabeth to fight anti-semitism when he steps down from the bank.