FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The chairman of embattled German industrial group Thyssenkrupp (TKAG.DE) resigned on Monday, following the company’s chief executive out the door under pressure from activist shareholders pushing for radical restructuring of the group.
Ulrich Lehner’s departure opens up a leadership vacuum at the submarines-to-elevators group, even after it named finance director Guido Kerkhoff to stand in as CEO for Heinrich Hiesinger, who left after a shareholder revolt over strategy.
Lehner, 72, informed the executive board that he would resign, effective July 31, and that he would withdraw from the supervisory board, Thyssenkrupp said in a statement, adding that it would decide on a successor “shortly”.
Hiesinger had championed a European merger of Thyssenkrupp’s steel interests with those of India’s Tata Steel (TISC.NS) as a key plank of a strategy of turning around the group, which employs 158,000 staff.
He quit after failed to win unanimous shareholder backing for the Tata deal, which was two years in the making and less advantageous for Thyssenkrupp than some investors had hoped.
Activist investors Cevian Capital, which holds an 18 percent stake in Thyssenkrupp, and Elliott have called for an across-the-board strategy review at the Essen-based conglomerate.
They are at odds with the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, which owns a 21 percent stake and represents the legacy of the company’s late owner, whose last wish was for Thyssenkrupp to remain whole.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Edward Taylor