It was hailed as Wolfgang Reitzle’s triumph when, last May, 93 percent of shareholders in the Swiss cement concern Holcim voted in favor of the merger with French competitor Lafarge that created the world’s largest cement maker.
Mr. Reitzle, who was Holcim’s supervisory board chairman, had wrestled important concessions from Lafarge to pave the way for the merger.
“I feel it’s my duty to lead this exciting project to success,” he said after the shareholder meeting to approve the deal. “It’s always the case that the success of a merger depends on more than just one person.”
But now Mr. Reitzle is leaving as chief executive of the giant company he helped create less than a year ago, returning to become the supervisory board chairman of industrial gas giant Linde. Critics of the move say the timing of his departure could hardly be worse.
Mr. Reitzle, who had previously held a seat on the management board of the carmaker BMW, had managed to steer the cement giant merger through a crisis. But now it seems that he may have simply steered Holcim-Lafarge into the eye of the hurricane before jumping ship to go back to Linde.