Akzo Chief Builds Team With New Head of Decorative Paint

Akzo Nobel NV named a new manager to oversee its decorative-paint unit in the third leadership change since the arrival of Chief Executive Officer Ton Buechner less than a year ago.

Ruud Joosten, currently head of Akzo Nobel’s pulp and performance chemicals unit, will join the executive committee and succeed Tex Gunning at the decorative-paint operation on April 26, the Amsterdam-based company said today. Gunning, 62, is retiring after spending three years integrating and restructuring the paint division acquired in the $16.5 billion takeover of Imperial Chemical Industries.

Buechner’s remit is to overhaul and improve efficiency at Akzo Nobel, whose sprawling interests span personal-care ingredients as well as fire-protection coatings for the oil and gas industry. He set about the task with gusto, resulting in months of sick leave from exhaustion. Gunning spent three years trying to turn a profit from U.S. household paint operations before Buechner opted in December to sell the business to PPG Industries Inc.

“It’s a good sign Buechner has been building his own team in the past couple of months,” said Fabian Smeets, an analyst at ING Groep. “The retirement of Gunning was mostly anticipated, and when you look at the margins at decorative paints, I don’t think investors will see it as a loss.”

Akzo rose as much as 0.7 percent and was trading up 0.1 percent at 52.50 euros at 3:57 p.m. in Amsterdam. The stock is at the highest since May 10, 2011, based on closing prices.

Managers’ Retirements

Gunning’s departure follows the announcement in October of the retirement of Leif Darner, the former head of Performance Coatings. He’s being replaced by Conrad Keijzer. Bob Margevich, the former country director for North America, also announced his retirement last month, with Graeme Armstrong stepping into the role. Buechner took his CEO post in April, succeeding Hans Wijers.

The top priority for Joosten, 48, will be to bring the European decorative paint operations into line with the current market, “which isn’t easy at the moment, as demand is much less than a couple of years ago,” he said in an interview. “But just as important is to push growth in countries like China, India and Brazil.”

Akzo Nobel wrote down the decorative-paint business by 2.5 billion euros ($3.3 billion) last year after the prolonged attempt to turn around the business failed to counter falling demand for its Glidden and Dulux brands.

(Corrects executive’s age in seventh paragraph.)
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