Ulrich Hartmann, the chief executive officer who shook up the European energy market when he engineered the merger that turned EON SE into Germany’s largest utility, has died. He was 75.
Hartmann died today in Dusseldorf, EON spokesman Josef Nelles said.
As CEO of the Dusseldorf-based energy, mining and telecommunications firm Veba AG for seven years, Hartmann was the driving force behind its merger with Munich-based Viag AG in 2000, two years after the German government liberalized the energy market. Known as “Mr. Shareholder Value” from his days as chief financial officer at Veba, Hartmann exited the telecommunications and chemicals industries to focus on the new company’s business as an electricity provider.
“With his courage and vision, with his unmatched combination of strategic consistency and tactical resourcefulness, Ulrich Hartmann over many years left his mark on EON as it was built up and developed into a successful, international and competitive company,” Johannes Teyssen, EON’s CEO, said in a statement.
Under Hartmann and Wilhelm Simson, the Viag boss who became his co-CEO at EON, the merged company acquired U.K. utility Powergen Ltd. in 2002 and took over Ruhrgas AG under ministerial approval a year later to become one of Europe’s biggest utilities, with representation in more than 20 countries. The two men moved to the supervisory board in 2003.
During Hartmann’s eight-year chairmanship of the supervisory board, EON purchased more than 15 billion euros ($20.5 billion) in assets, including 11.5 billion euros from Enel SpA. The Italian company was forced to divest assets to meet European Union competition rules after making a joint bid with Spain’s Acciona SA to take over Madrid-based Endesa SA. EON had tried to gain control of Endesa in 2006, before losing to the joint bid.
While EON made attempts to form nuclear-power ventures outside Germany, Hartmann foresaw political conflict looming at home as early as the 1990s and later refocused EON’s strategy to cope with an exit from nuclear power. In 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to phase out nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear-power-plant meltdown.
Hartmann is the last board member whose name adorns one of the company’s power plants. The 550-megawatt unit at Irsching in the southern state of Bavaria was the world’s most efficient combined-cycle, gas-turbine plant when it started operating in 2011, according to EON.
Hartmann was born on Aug. 7, 1938, in Berlin. He studied law at universities in Munich, Berlin and Bonn.
Hartmann began his career as an auditor at Treuarbeit AG in Dusseldorf in 1967 before becoming an assistant to the management board of Deutsche Leasing AG in 1971. He worked as corporate counsel at a unit of Veba in 1973, seven years after his father, Alfred, stepped down as CEO, a post he had held since 1959.
Hartmann served on the supervisory boards of Daimler AG, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Henkel AG. He was board chairman at Munich Re AG and IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG.
Hartmann and his wife, Inge, had two children.