Controversy at Thyssenkrupp
It has not been a week since the Thyssenkrupp balance sheet press conference, and the supervisory board had to reconvene on Wednesday, this time to discuss executive personnel matters that sparked a heated dispute over co-determination. In addition to appointing a new CFO, the executive board will be expanded by two people, despite resistance from the employee side.
In the end, Chairman of the Supervisory Board Siegfried Russwurm had to exercise his double voting rights to appoint Volkmar Dinstuhl and Ilse Henne to the executive board, effective January 1. A process that is not only rare but particularly exceptional in the co-determined realm of Thyssenkrupp. Normally, in contentious matters, compromises are worked out in the committees of the supervisory board, which are then jointly supported. This time, that did not happen, leading the employee representatives in the supervisory board to speak of a "cultural break in co-determination." They claimed that the capital side in the supervisory board, along with CEO Miguel Lopez, had abandoned established co-determination practices.
At the same time, employee representatives openly threatened, stating: "This turning point will leave a mark and permanently damage the previously balanced and constructive dialogue in the supervisory board." The unilateral action of the capital side sends devastating signals to the workforce. The employee representatives are essentially concerned that the executive board is being expanded while group-wide cost-saving and performance programs are underway. "The pressure has increased to the maximum."
So far, so understandable. Since taking office, Lopez has made no secret of his intention to turn the tide at Thyssenkrupp with the Apex performance program. Specifically, Apex is expected to contribute €2 billion to the operating result within two years, focusing more on profitable growth than cost reduction. "Improving the financial strength of our businesses and the dividend capability of the company significantly shape our agenda," said Lopez. A significant reduction in jobs is not linked to the Apex performance program.
With the expansion of the executive board to five members, the decentralization initiated by Martina Merz is also being reversed. Each board member, except the CFO, will now be responsible for individual segments to more rigorously implement the performance program.
From Mainz to Essen
While the new CFO, Jens Schulte, comes from outside the company, Dinstuhl and Henne, two long-time managers within the company, are being promoted to the executive board. Schulte (born in 1971) has been serving as CFO of Mainz-based glass manufacturer Schott since 2016. What motivates the manager to make this change is revealed in his resume. After initial stints at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, Schulte took on his first "industry job" at Siemens in 2002. The same company where BDI President Russwurm spent the majority of his career and where Lopez also worked for many years.
Schulte's move to Essen is expected to take place in the second half of the business year that began in October. His predecessor, Klaus Keysberg, decided in September to not extend his contract which expires in July 2024. The tension between Keysberg and Lopez was evident during the previous week's annual press conference.
While the personnel change was uncontested on the employee side, there was no consensus on expanding the executive board, even though the two new board members were recruited from within.
Dinstuhl (51) had made a name for himself as the M&A chief responsible for selling the elevator division. In the portfolio restructuring initiative announced in May 2020, Dinstuhl was tasked with selling or winding down the businesses brought together in the Multi Tracks division.
Since September of this year, however, everything has changed once again. Lopez gave the company a new divisional structure, redistributing the businesses that remained in Multi Tracks among the new divisions. As a member of the executive board, Dinstuhl will now be liable for Automotive Technology.
Ilse Henne comes from the material trading sector (Material Services). She has been a member of the executive board of this division since 2019, serving as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). She brings proven expertise in process digitization and cybersecurity, areas in which she will now enhance the executive board's capabilities. Additionally, she will be responsible for the material trading sector. The responsibility for the new division Decarbon Technologies and the steel business will be assumed by CEO Lopez. Chief Human Resources Officer Oliver Burkhard will continue to be responsible for Marine Systems.