Thyssenkrupp CEO Martina Merz to quit, in blow to shares

By Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Thyssenkrupp said on Monday its chief executive Martina Merz, who launched a major overhaul of the German industrial conglomerate, is leaving, knocking its shares.

Merz took over as CEO in 2019 after a string of profit warnings and a failed steel merger that brought Thyssenkrupp to the brink of collapse and triggered the sale of its prized elevator division in a bid to survive.

Thyssenkrupp said the personnel committee of its supervisory board had entered into talks with Merz at her request to terminate her contract by mutual agreement, without giving a reason.

Merz, 60, last year received a new contract to lead the submarines-to-car parts group until 2028, but lack of progress in plans to hive off the company’s hydrogen and steel division led to growing criticism among investors and workers.

Shares in Thyssenkrupp fell as much as 12% and were down 11.4% at 1354 GMT.

Thyssenkrupp said it recommended Miguel Angel Lopez Borrego, who is CEO of automotive and industrial supplier Norma Group, to succeed Merz from June 1.

Thyssenkrupp Chairman Siegfried Russwurm said with Borrego at the top, the company would continue the transformation path on the basis of the strategic roadmap that had been laid out.

“This is challenging, but necessary. Because the transformation of Thyssenkrupp is not yet complete,” he said.

Apart from selling elevators, Merz, whose tenure saw Thyssenkrupp’s share price nearly halve, also divested or shut smaller businesses, responding to criticism that the company is too complex.

She had planned to create a group of companies similar to a holding structure in which the parent owns stakes but does not necessarily control individual businesses.

“Martina Merz has taken over a very difficult task at a challenging time and since then has initiated a fundamental change process at Thyssenkrupp with great commitment and expertise,” Russwurm said.

(Additional reporting by Tristan Veyet and Alexander Huebner; Editing by Friederike Heine, Matthias Williams and Alexander Smith)