ThyssenKrupp Appoints Deutsche Telekom’s Lehner as Chairman

ThyssenKrupp AG, Germany’s biggest steelmaker, appointed Deutsche Telekom AG Chairman Ulrich Lehner to the same role on its supervisory board as it seeks a break with the culture of 12 years under Gerhard Cromme.

The supervisory board plans to vote on Lehner’s appointment on March 19, the Essen, Germany-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Cromme announced last week that he would step down as chairman at the end of the month.

“The entire supervisory board backs the realignment of the company announced by the board and the inherent change in culture,” ThyssenKrupp said, indicating that the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen Foundation, which holds 25 percent of the shares, backs the move.

Cromme was handpicked more than 27 years ago by industrialist Berthold Beitz, now 99 and head of the foundation, to take the helm at a predecessor of ThyssenKrupp’s steel unit. The now 70-year-old, who also chairs Siemens AG’s supervisory board, resisted calls to resign at the steelmaker’s annual general meeting in January in the biggest shareholder rebellion in the 14-year history of the merged company.

Lehner, born in 1946, spent three years at the former Fried. Krupp GmbH’s controlling department in the 1980s, before leaving to join Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, where he rose to CEO in 2000. He has been on ThyssenKrupp’s supervisory board since 2008, alongside similar positions at Henkel, Porsche Automobil Holding SE, E.ON SE, Deutsche Telekom and Novartis AG.

“That is a capable man,” Marc Gabriel, an analyst at Bankhaus Lampe KG in Dusseldorf, said by phone. “He is the right signal for the necessary new start in the supervisory board.”

Business Divisions

ThyssenKrupp CEO Heinrich Hiesinger complained of a “lack of direction” at the company when he assumed his present position two years ago. He is now cutting the company’s business divisions to five from eight and the number of units to about 400 from 750. His largest single transaction involves finding buyers for the unprofitable Steel Americas business.

Hiesinger pledged in December to rid ThyssenKrupp of “old structures and habits.” The company displayed “an understanding of leadership in which old boys networks and blind loyalty were more important than business success,” he said.

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