Ex-Lanxess CEO Heitmann Considers Demanding Back Severance Pay

Axel Heitmann, the former Lanxess AG chief executive officer who left the German chemical maker at the end of February, is considering trying to claw back severance pay that he previously agreed to forgo.

Heitmann has hired lawyers to look into whether he was illicitly compelled to to give up the pay on Feb. 20, his spokesman Peter Dietlmaier said today.

Lanxess demanded Heitmann relinquish the payment because of disagreements over security equipment on his house, according to statements by him in documents prepared by his lawyers at Lexpert and Feigen Graf and provided by Dietlmaier. In a separate statement, Lanxess said while it usually covers expenses for installing security at the homes of board members, Heitmann’s costs were “above the usual and acceptable scale.”

Lanxess on Jan. 26 named Merck KGaA finance chief Matthias Zachert as CEO and said Heitmann, who was chief of the company since its inception 10 years ago, would leave on Feb. 28.

Heitmann agreed to forgo the severance pay because the company told him in February that he would otherwise be dismissed with immediate effect and face a no-confidence vote at the annual shareholder meeting, according to his statements in the legal documents.

Lanxess said in its statement that “Heitmann received legal advice, when he offered to reimburse the company for the costs of the security measures in his house, and also offered to change his severance agreement.” The company didn’t comment beyond that statement.

Security Equipment

Both Dietlmaier and Lanxess declined to comment on the amount of the severance pay. Without saying how it got the information, WirtschaftsWoche reported earlier today that it was 6 million euros ($8.3 million), while Manager Magazin said it was 8.5 million euros.

At the time of January vote on Heitmann’s departure, the supervisory board didn’t know about the security installation payment issues and the topic didn’t play any role in the decision to replace the CEO, Lanxess said. Heitmann had to go because of differences about the company’s strategy, Lanxess said.

Heitmann’s lawyers disagree with Lanxess’s assessment that the installation and payment of security equipment wasn’t known. Lanxess’s corporate security department drew up the security measures, checked on their execution and looked at the invoices, according to the documents from his lawyers.

Lanxess shares rose as much as 4.1 percent to 53.38 euros in Frankfurt trading today and were up 3.3 percent at 52.96 euros as of 2.50 p.m. local time. The stock has gained 9.3 percent this year for a market value of 4.4 billion euros.

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