Home Money Commodity King Nick O’Kane quits Macquarie after almost three decades

Commodity King Nick O’Kane quits Macquarie after almost three decades

by Elijah
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Trading it in: Nick O'Kane (pictured) will step down as head of Macquarie's global commodities and markets division on February 27.

A superstar Macquarie commodities trader is leaving the firm this month after making more money than JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon and his own chief executive.

In a surprise announcement, the Australian investment bank said Nick O’Kane would step down as head of its global commodities and markets (CGM) division on February 27.

O’Kane, who has worked for Macquarie for almost three decades, will “pursue opportunities outside the business”. He will be replaced by Simon Wright, who heads CGM’s financial markets division.

News of his departure came as the company, which has been dubbed the ‘Vampire Kangaroo’, warned that its profits would be lower than previously expected as deals fell to their lowest level in a decade.

O’Kane is widely credited with turning Macquarie’s obscure commodities and global markets division into a powerhouse after he made a seemingly modest bet on US energy trading after taking over the operation in 2019.

Swapping it out: Nick O’Kane (pictured) will leave his role as head of Macquarie’s global commodities and markets division on February 27.

The timing of the move meant Macquarie saw its profits soar after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and extreme weather conditions in some parts of the world caused massive swings in global energy prices.

Before taking charge of the division, O’Kane also helped orchestrate Macquarie’s purchase of small Californian energy group Cook Inlet in 2005, which has since become a global player reporting a profit of £3.1bn on last year.

His success meant O’Kane became one of Australia’s highest-paid executives, earning £30 million last year, more than the salaries of Dimon and Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon.

His bumper salary even surpassed that of Macquarie chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake, who was paid £17m that same year.

The announcement of O’Kane’s departure came as Macquarie reported that its year-to-date profits to March 2024 were “substantially lower” than the same period last year and that its annual performance would decline sharply in 2023 as agreement. Opportunities dried up amid economic uncertainty.

Despite this, Wikramanayake said the company remained “well positioned to deliver outperformance over the medium term.”

Macquarie shares fell 1 percent on Australian markets following the results.

High-flying: Macquarie CEO Shemara Wikramanayake

High-flying: Macquarie CEO Shemara Wikramanayake

The dismal profits will increase pressure on Macquarie, which has already faced severe criticism for its management of the UK’s major water companies.

The bank’s ownership of several UK water companies has been criticized, including Thames Water, which it bought in 2006 and sold in 2017.

Macquarie put utility groups into debt and reaped billions in dividends, but failed to invest to improve the water network, resulting in frequent sewage leaks and spills.

Concerns were also raised last year when Macquarie took an 80 per cent stake in National Gas, the British gas infrastructure network that manages thousands of kilometers of pipelines supplying homes.

The Australian company has extensive key UK infrastructure in its hands, including a majority stake in Southern Water.

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