Former Deutsche Bank boss Hilmar Kopper, who caused outrage in Germany when he described a client’s millions of euros in unpaid bills as “peanuts”, has died at the age of 86, the bank said on Friday.
Kopper took the helm at Deutsche in 1989, just days after his predecessor Alfred Herrhausen was murdered by a far-left terrorist group.
From 1997 until 2002, Kopper then served as chairman of the bank’s supervisory board.
He is credited with spearheading Deutsche’s transformation into an international player and Wall Street giant.
He oversaw the acquisition of British bank Morgan Grenfell in 1989 and helped prepare the takeover of the America’s Bankers Trust.
But Kopper will be best remembered in Germany for an off-hand comment in 1994 following the collapse of Juergen Schneider’s property group.
As a result of the crash, Deutsche had to cover 50 million Deutschmark (roughly 25 million euros) in unpaid trade bills to Schneider’s contractors and suppliers — a sum Kopper described as mere “peanuts”.
The quip sparked headlines in a country that prides itself on frugality and budgetary discipline, and was held up as an example of the arrogance of powerful bankers.
A later movie about real estate king Schneider’s rise and fall was titled “Peanuts — The Bank Pays Everything”.
Kopper died after a short illness, Deutsche said in a statement.
“With Hilmar Kopper, Deutsche Bank loses one of its most formative personalities,” said supervisory board chairman Paul Achleitner.
“He steered the bank with leadership and foresight, and with a clear understanding of how much globalisation would change the banking business.”