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Lanxess chief executive Heitmann to step down; former CFO Zachert named next CEO (updated)

8:16 PM MST | January 27, 2014 | Deepti Ramesh

Zachert. Former CFO will take
helm at Lanxess in May.
Lanxess says that executive chairman Axel Heitmann has agreed to resign “by mutual agreement,” effective 28 February. The supervisory board has appointed Matthias Zachert, former chief financial officer (CFO) of Lanxess and current CFO at Merck KGaA, as Heitmann’s successor, effective 15 May 2014. Until Zachert joins, Lanxess CFO Bernhard Duettmann will perform the responsibilities of board chairman.

“Lanxess is facing significant challenges, for example in terms of market capacities and business portfolio. Therefore, the supervisory board believes it is the right time to hand over responsibility to a new leadership in order to overcome these challenges,” says Rolf Stomberg, chairman of the supervisory board of Lanxess. The company's shares rallied 8.2% on the move, closing at €48.72/share on Monday, 27 January. 

Zachert said on a Merck investor call Monday that he was first approached about the Lanxess opportunity by Stomberg a few days before Christmas. “It was not an easy process. It took me until last week to make up my mind because I have a lot of my blood and heart with [Merck KgAA],” Zachert says. He adds that Merck remains a “company that is extremely strong and well on track.” 

Zachert says that he also retained a strong emotional attachment to Lanxess, which was the key driver in deciding to rejoin the company. “It will be a tough and challenging road but the ingredients at Lanxess are good,” Zachert says. “It will take time, but I’m always happy to take on challenges.” 

Heitmann has been chairman of the Lanxess board since 2004. Lanxess was spun off from Bayer. Heitmann has played a “key role in shaping the company since its creation, through consistent restructuring and strategic portfolio measures. He has formed Lanxess into a leading global specialty chemicals company, achieving many noticeable successes. The supervisory board expresses its sincere gratitude and high regard for Mr. Heitmann, also on behalf of all employees,” Stomberg says.

Zachert has been a member of Merck’s executive board since June 2011. Merck says that its board of partners will decide about a successor for Zachert, in due course.
“We are losing a proven expert who during his three years at Merck has realigned the global finance organization and played a significant role in our transformation program. We very much regret that Matthias Zachert will leave Merck, but understand his decision in light of the attractive assignment,” says Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, chairman of the family board at Merck.

Lanxess is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of €9.1 billion ($12.3 billion) in 2012 and about 17,500 employees worldwide. The core business of Lanxess is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals.

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