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UPDATE 3-Australia's AMP hires ANZ's Alexis George as CEO in drive to break with troubled past

(Recasts throughout with background, adds analyst comment)

April 1 (Reuters) - Embattled Australian wealth manager AMP Ltd on Thursday named Australia and New Zealand Banking Group deputy chief Alexis George as its new chief executive officer, saying Francesco De Ferrari would retire from the role.

The move comes just days after AMP firmly rejected a media report that De Ferrari had resigned. It was welcomed by analysts and investors as a signal of a new willingness by AMP to distance itself from a three-year period marked by corporate culture questions and scathing regulatory criticism that saw it lose three-quarters of its market value.

AMP shares were 4% higher after the announcement on Thursday, with George described by Morningstar analyst Shaun Ler as “a change agent in reinvigorating firm culture – an issue that has been consistently plaguing AMP”.

Former Credit Suisse banker De Ferrari took over in 2018 with a remit to stabilise AMP following scathing criticism in a government inquiry into the financial sector found widespread misconduct within the company that led to an exodus of clients and the share slide.

George will take over in the third quarter, the company said in a statement. “She ... is committed to continue the transformation of AMP’s business, and importantly, our organisation’s culture,” AMP Chair Debra Hazelton said in a statement.

The move, a year after the company’s previous chairman quit amid reports a male staffer was promoted after being disciplined for inappropriate behaviour, will make AMP one of Australia’s largest listed companies with a female chair and CEO.

A company-wide review of AMP’s assets ended in February with a proposed deal to sell a majority stake of its private markets business to Ares Management, after the American fund walked away from a whole-of-company A$6.36 billion ($4.8 billion) buyout offer.

While a 30-day exclusivity period to finalise a deal ended on Friday, De Ferrari would continue to lead discussions with Ares about the potential transaction, AMP said.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Kenneth Maxwell

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