Deutsche Bahn vs. Airbus: Who has the better supervisory boards?

Bahn Aufsichtsrat

Next Wednesday there will be an election that is not an election: At the so-called Annual General Meeting of Deutsche Bahn on 25 March, the Federal Government will appoint the new Supervisory Board. It is already clear that former Secretary of State for Transport Michael Odenwald will remain chief controller. Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker (57), the long-standing consumer policy spokeswoman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, is to become a new member of his body. In doing so, the Federal Government is remaining true to its line – unfortunately: it is taking a tight rein on the railways and prefers to send politicians to the supervisory board instead of ensuring more management competence and entrepreneurial experience.

Politicians as controllers? “Wishes, tactics, guidelines”

We therefore recall the memorable words of the former Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Utz-Hellmuth Felcht: “Politics has made the work of the Supervisory Board more and more difficult through many wishes, tactics and specifications,” he said on the occasion of his departure. Unfortunately, he did not find a hearing in Berlin – on the contrary: the Railway Supervisory Board is more than ever a politburo; seven (in part former) state secretaries, ministry officials and members of parliament shape the body. Even the planned appointment of Talanx CFO Immo Querner will not change their dominance, as he replaces the former German banker Jürgen Krumnow (and thus one of the few remaining managers). We are convinced that politicization is an aberration: to finally become better, Deutsche Bahn needs supervisory boards that think entrepreneurially.

By the way, the example of Airbus shows that things work differently than at Deutsche Bahn: there, the federal government traditionally sends independent managers to the supervisory board. On April 16, the shareholders are to elect former Haniel boss Stephan Gemkow (60) to the board of directors.