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Lanxess to replace Heitmann as CEO

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(Crain News Service photo) Axel Heitmann is outgoing CEO of Lanxess A.G.

By Chris Sweeney, Crain News Service

COLOGNE (Feb. 3, 2014) — Synthetic rubber producer Lanxess A.G. will replace Axel Heitmann as CEO and chairman of the board of management, effective Feb. 28.

The firm said the Lanxess supervisory board and Mr. Heitmann arrived at a mutual agreement, according to a news release issued on Jan. 26.

The supervisory board has appointed Matthias Zachert as Mr. Heitmann’s successor. Mr. Zachert was the former chief financial officer of Lanxess and currently is chief financial officer at Merck KGaA, a position he has held since June 2011.

Mr. Zachert has asked for an early release from his duties, and Merck said it will accommodate his request, but it did not disclose when his departure becomes effective. Lanxess said Mr. Zachert will join Lanxess no later than May 15.

Lanxess chief financial officer Bernhard Duettmann will serve as chairman of the board of management during the transition period between Messrs. Heitmann and Zachert.

“Mr. Heitmann has played a key role in shaping the company since its creation through consistent restructuring and strategic portfolio measures,” said Rolf Stomberg, chairman of the supervisory board, in a news release. “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.”

Lanxess was the second-worst performer on Germany’s DAX index last year. Since the change in management was announced, Lanxess’ stock rose more than it has in two years, according to Bloomberg News, while Merck’s stock fell the most in more than four years.

“Lanxess is facing significant challenges, for example in terms of market capacities and business portfolio,” Mr. Stomberg said in a news release. “Therefore, the supervisory board believes it is the right time to hand over responsibility to a new leadership in order to overcome these challenges. Mr. Zachert performed excellent work as chief financial officer at Lanxess and has an outstanding reputation among employees as well as in the capital market.

Merck said Mr. Zachert has realigned the global finance organization and played a significant role in Merck’s transformation program during his three years with the firm.

“I thank Matthias Zachert very much for the successful and collegial cooperation, which all of us would have liked to continue,” said Karl-Ludwig Kley, chairman of the Merck executive board, in a news release. “He has significantly contributed to further developing Merck KGaA in a positive way. His transparent capital market communication has clearly helped boost investor trust in our company.”

Merck is a global pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company with total revenues of $15.3 billion. It is headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, and employs 38,000 in 66 countries.

Lanxess is a global specialty chemicals company with sales of $12.4 billion in 2012. It is based in Cologne and employs 17,500 in 31 countries, with 52 global production sites. Last October, among some new product introductions, the company debuted two neodymium polybutadiene rubber grades it said were designed to facilitate the production of fuel-efficient tires.

This report appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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