The legacy of Paul Achleitner and Ulrich Lehner – on strong halves and courageous decisions

Dear readers of GermanBoardNews,

it’s a big surprise Alexander Wynaendts (61) is to be the new chairman of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank and thus successor to Paul Achleitner. Alexander who? At the beginning of last week, even those familiar with the financial sector had to do some Googling to find out who would be occupying one of the most important posts in the German economy

In the meantime, word has spread: The Dutchman Wynaendts led the insurance group Aegon for twelve years from 2008 and thus has crisis and consolidation experience. He also sits on several supervisory and administrative boards, including Air France-KLM.

But is he the right man? I think he needs to significantly reduce the number of mandates he holds – you don’t run the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank on the side. But I am optimistic: As a candidate who is not one of the usual suspects, Wynaendts has a starting advantage

Achleitner’s coup is Wynaendts’ chance..

After all, no one can readily accuse him of Deutschland AG cronyism that helped him to his post. Critics, who are undoubtedly already digging in their heels, will therefore have to come up with something better

The Dutchman has his predecessor to thank for this advantage. For Paul Achleitner did not choose him himself: He left the selection process to Mayree Clarke from the U.S., who has “no connections to the old boys clubs and networks of Deutschland AG” (which is why we spoke back in September about Paul Achleitner’s coup in succession planning)

Achleitner thus gives his successor an unencumbered start – and at the same time increases the chance that his aegis will be judged more mildly in retrospect.

Weak first half, strong second half

There is no question that he bears significant responsibility for the hesitant structural and cultural change in Frankfurt due to wrong personnel decisions. But in the last three to four years, a lot has changed, and Christian Sewing seems to have been a good choice

Moreover, Achleitner has gradually brought fresh people and ideas to his supervisory board, for which we first praised him in 2017... So you could say that after a weak first half, Achleitner turned it up in the course of the second half. In doing so, he has rendered outstanding services to corporate governance in Germany and, in particular, to the professionalization of supervisory boards

This applies all the more to a second grandee who will soon be stepping down from his most important office: Ulrich Lehner will retire as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Telekom in 2022, and his successor will be presented shortly

Ulrich Lehner’s revolutionary act

Lehner has made bold and groundbreaking decisions on several occasions. In 2013, for example, he brought the 37-year-old startup entrepreneur Lars Hinrichs onto Deutsche Telekom’s Supervisory Board – an almost revolutionary act by the standards of the time (especially as Hinrichs immediately set cultural accents)

In addition, Ulrich Lehner’s much-criticized resignation at Thyssen-Krupp sent an important signal against investors who aggressively want to assert their own interests. In this way he triggered a debate that has raised awareness of the standards of the social market economy and reminded some activists to be more cautious. Chapeau

For him, yield had always been what was left over when all other groups had been served, lehner said a little later at the German Supervisory Day... A side blow that was as dry as it was apt. One could say: a typical Lehner.


Your Peter H. Dehnen