Lloyds bank CEO to stay after tabloid claims of tryst during Singapore business trip

Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce annual meeting in central London, Britain, on Feb 10, 2015.
Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce annual meeting in central London, Britain, on Feb 10, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio apologised to staff on Wednesday (Aug 24) for damaging the bank's reputation but said he intended to continue running the British lender following press scrutiny of his private life.

In a memo to employees seen by Reuters, Mr Horta-Osorio, 52, addressed a report by the The Sun newspaper earlier this month that said the married chief executive ran up a £3,826 (S$6,860) bill while staying at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore in June and spending time there with another woman.

The woman has been named in British media reports as Wendy Piatt, a former adviser to ex-prime minister Tony Blair and a director of the Russell Group of universities. Mr Horta-Osorio was attending a banking conference in Singapore.

He did not directly refer to the tabloid claims of an affair in his memo, instead calling the reports "speculation by certain newspapers" and noting that "my personal life is obviously a private matter".

But he added: "I deeply regret being the cause of so much adverse publicity and the damage that has been done to the group's reputation."

The tabloid story alleged Mr Horta-Osorio had improperly claimed the personal spending as a business expense, but the executive said in the memo that the bank had cleared him of any wrongdoing regarding his expenses.

Lloyds has said its chairman Norman Blackwell had reviewed the allegations and was also satisfied Mr Horta-Osório had paid his own personal expenses while attending a Singapore conference.

The Lloyds chief executive, who is Portuguese, has run the bank for the past five years and is highly regarded for turning around the lender after it struggled following the financial crisis.

Top investors in the bank had expressed concerns Mr Horta-Osório, who took the helm of Lloyds in 2011, might leave sooner than anticipated following the press scrutiny.

"... please be assured that I am as committed as ever to leading the Group forward to deliver our strategy and to meet our future ambitions," Mr Horta-Osorio said in the memo on Wednesday.

A Lloyds spokesman said: "Antonio has the full confidence and backing of the board in his role as chief executive, and he remains committed to the bank and delivering on its strategic ambitions."

With additional information from the Straits Times