Manuel Theisen vs. Elmar Degenhart: A Call for Moderation

Elmar Degenhart

The much-discussed”brand letter” to more than 400 executives of automotive supplier Conti was followed by a”fire interview” on Friday: Corporate governance expert Manuel Theisen described the letter as an admission by the Executive Board that it”failed in management” – and de facto demanded the resignation of CEO Elmar Degenhart:”Basically,” according to Professor Theisen, one sentence was missing from the fire letter:”And for this reason I resign immediately” To put it mildly, we were surprised by this vehement criticism. Certainly, the Group’s two profit warnings that preceded the fire letter were embarrassing and annoying.

Professor with an activist habit?

But they should not obscure the fact that things are going well economically in Hanover: Conti has grown strongly under Degenhart and continues to be highly profitable despite lowered forecasts. In addition, the”brand letter” – like Fidelity fund manager Christian von Engelbrechten – can also be interpreted differently: As a sign that Degenhart is tackling the problems with determination. Or are CEOs only allowed to touch managers with kid gloves to avoid demotivating them? Against this background, it seems excessive to speak of a “failure” and to question Degenhart. We would have expected this at best from activist investors aiming at short-term price gains – but not from a renowned corporate governance expert who should be more interested in constructive debate than in headlines.