Lufthansa Finance Chief Quits After 22 Years for Haniel

Deutsche Lufthansa AG Chief Financial Officer Stephan Gemkow will leave the airline to take over as chief executive officer of Franz Haniel & Cie GmbH, ending a 22-year career at Europe’s second-biggest airline.

Gemkow’s appointment at Haniel must still be approved by the company’s supervisory board, Haniel spokesman Dietmar Bochert said by telephone. Lufthansa’s supervisory board will meet May 7 to discuss Gemkow’s departure and consider potential replacements, the Cologne, Germany-based carrier said in a separate statement today.

Since becoming CFO in June 2006, Gemkow administered a cost-saving program between 2008 and 2011 that eliminated 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in expenses. Another 1.5 billion-euro profit improvement plan was announced in February.

“It’s clearly a loss, he’s a very good manager,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based Bankhaus Metzler analyst. “Conversely, the big theme at the moment is the restructuring program, and we all know that it’s the chief executive officer who’s in the driving seat there.”

After spells as area sales chief in the U.S., head of investor relations and senior vice president of corporate finance, the 52 year old served as finance head at the cargo unit for two years before assuming his current role.

Making Decisions

Current Haniel CEO Juergen Kluge said in November that he will not extend his contract at the company when it expires in December. It is as yet undecided when Gemkow will leave Lufthansa, Claudia Lange, a Frankfurt-based spokeswoman for the carrier, said by telephone.

“He might not always have made the right decisions, but many of them were good,” said Frankfurt-based Equinet analyst Jochen Rothenbacher, who has a “hold” rating on Lufthansa shares. “When the CFO leaves a DAX company because he has found something better, it clearly demonstrates that something is not going quite right with the development of the business.”

Haniel is a holding company whose investments include 50.01 percent of Metro AG, Germany’s biggest retailer, and 54.6 percent of Celesio AG, Europe’s largest drug wholesaler, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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