Junker, Pöllath, Reitzle: Why the time is ripe

Too old? No, but too long at the helm. Which supervisory board heads should let go.

Sometimes different reports have more in common than they seem at first glance. For example, the departure of Beiersdorf CEO Stefan De Loecker and the high loss of the automotive supplier Mahle, both announced this week. For those who read on after the respective core information came across an astonishing parallel: the role of powerful supervisory board heads.

Mahle’s chief controller Heinz Junker (71) had “not stood out as a great promoter of electric drives” during his time as CEO, wrote the Handelsblatt. And at Beiersdorf, there was talk behind closed doors of “considerable discrepancies” between the outgoing CEO De Loecker and the supervisory board led by Reinhard Pöllath (73).

Let’s take a closer look: Reinhard Pöllath has been on the supervisory board since 2002 and became chairman six years later. Junker has even been determining Mahle’s fortunes since 1996 – first as CEO, later as Chief Executive Officer. In the case of both of them, therefore, there is much to suggest that after long terms of office they have long since become part of the system that they are supposed to monitor independently. This increases the risk of serious wrong decisions.

When the cooling-off hardly matters

Unfortunately, terms of office that dwarf even Chancellor Merkel are by no means frowned upon in Germany’s premier stock market league. Wolfgang Reitzle (72), for example, took over the CEO post at Linde in 2002 and today acts as “Chairman”. The two years of cooling-off are of little consequence, as is the case with Allianz Supervisory Board Chairman Michael Diekmann (66), who started as CEO in 2003.

Fresenius Supervisory Board Chairman Gerd Krick (82), who became Chairman of the Management Board in 1992 and joined the Supervisory Board eleven years later, takes the cake. At the Annual General Meeting on May 21, however, he will hand over to the former head of DZ Bank, Wolfgang Kirsch .

And with Hasso Plattner (SAP board spokesman from 1997, supervisory board chairman from 2003) another veteran has at least initiated his exit: Rouven Westphal, a close confidant, will soon join the SAP Supervisory Board. However, Plattner will remain on board for the time being. Now it doesn’t matter “a few more years,” he said a year ago.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that he is not wrong.