Franz M. Haniel: How many new members can a supervisory board take?


Regular readers of GermanBoardNews know our preference for football analogies. Here’s the next one: When a club has signed on a large number of new players during the summer break, the start of the season is often bumpy – it just takes a while for a team to get back on track. The same applies to committees such as the Supervisory Board, where it often takes months to integrate new members. Advocates of pure corporate governance therefore warn against exchanging too many members at the same time. But it seems to us: sometimes the argument serves as a welcome justification for half-hearted changes.

Fresh Wind & Onboarding & Teambuilding

Numerous supervisory boards urgently need a breath of fresh air, especially in terms of diversity and digital expertise. We therefore believe that an extensive exchange may well be the right thing to do. At the Haniel family business, for example, Franz Markus Haniel, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, and Georg Baur, Vice-Chairman of the Supervisory Board, will soon be leaving at the same time. “After weighing up the options, we have come to the conclusion that it is right to make decisive progress now,” Haniel explained in an interview with Manager Magazin. Of course, onboarding and team building are particularly important in such cases. To argue again with a football analogy: With intensive preparation for the season, coaches can speed up the start of the season – and ensure that the team emerges stronger from the weak phase.

Moreover, Haniel’s decision is another strong signal for the independence of supervisory boards. When he resigned as head of the Metro supervisory board, he had already pleaded for “independent, external chief supervisors”. We agree and recall: According to VARD professional principles, supervisory boards should exercise their mandate “free from the influence” of third parties. And as a member of a family, some of whose members depend on dividends, this is not at all easy.