Lafarge-Holcim Merger

Cracks in the Cement as Reitzle Splits

Reitzle-ennio leanza-dpa-picture alliance
Wolfgang Reitzle will be packing his bags soon.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Shareholders had hoped that Mr. Reitzle could lead Holcim-Lafarge through a successful merger process, but critics say Mr. Reitzle was never serious about his position there and was only waiting for the moment he could go back to Linde.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The merger between Holcim and Paris-based Lafarge created the world’s largest cement producer with annual joint sales of about €30 billion.
    • The deal was structured as a 1:1 share exchange, giving Holcim owners 53 percent of the merged group and Lafarge stockholders 47 percent.
    • Mr. Reitzle resigned at Linde in May 2014 after 11 years in the top job and hoped to jump straight to the company’s supervisory board – but was prevented by German corporate governance rules.
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    Audio

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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.

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