Josef Ackermann, chairman of Zurich Insurance Group resigns. (Reuters)
Josef Ackermann, chairman of Zurich Insurance Group resigns. (Reuters)

Zurich Insurance Group Chairman Josef Ackermann will resign from his post after the apparent suicide of the insurer's Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier, as he claims the deceased's family wrongly believe he can be partly blamed for the death.

Wauthier had been found dead in his apartment in what Swiss police say appeared to be suicide.

"To avoid any damage to Zurich's reputation, I have decided to resign from all my Board functions with immediate effect," said Ackermann, a former Deutsche Bank boss, in a statement.

"I have reasons to believe that the family is of the opinion that I should take my share of responsibility, as unfounded as any allegations might be," he said, adding that the death of Pierre Wauthier has "shocked" him.

Wauthier, 53, had served in the firm for 17 years.

"Pierre was under a lot of pressure because there was a lot more pressure from above on the share price, this was an open secret," an anonymous former colleague of Wauthier claimed to Reuters.

Zurich Vice-Chairman Tom de Swaan will be the acting chairman, said the insurer.

"Working with the Board and Management, I am determined to lead Zurich's continued success," Swaan added.

Ackermann worked for a year and a half as chairman in the company. He helped Deutsche to become one of the world's largest investment lenders, but his time at Zurich did not see the same level of success.

The insurer posted a fall in its first quarter profits after a "challenging business environment" hit investment returns. Net income after tax dropped to $1.06bn (£696m/€823m) year-on-year from $1.14bn.

Zurich has about 60,000 people working in 170 countries across the globe.

Second Corporate Suicide Case

Wauthier's suicide is followed by the death of Swisscom's chief executive officer, Carsten Schloter, in July. He was found dead at his home in Swiss canton of Fribourg in an apparent suicide.

Carsten Schloter, 49, was appointed as the chief of Swisscom in 2006.

Swisscom is Switzerland's leading telecommunication company which is majority owned by the Swiss government.