At Lighting Spinoff, a Family Feud

osram annual shareholders meeting source dpa
Osram CEO Olaf Berlien came under fire Tuesday at the lighting maker's annual shareholders' meeting as major investor Siemens withheld its support for his restructuring plan. While 70 percent of shareholders supported Mr. Berlien, the conflict with Osram's former parent company is expected to continue.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The public fight over extending the contract of CEO Olaf Berlien on Tuesday signals further tense times ahead for Siemens and its former unit, Osram.

  • Facts


    • Siemens on Tuesday voted against extending Mr. Berlien’s contract, but the measure failed as 70 percent of shareholders supported his candidacy.
    • Siemens spun off Osram, a lighting maker, in 2013 and still holds a 17.5-percent stake.
    • Since Mr. Berlien announced plans to restructure struggling Osram around the LED business, its shares have plunged, reducing the value of Siemens’ stake to €680 million from €940 million before Mr. Berlien took over last year.
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Call it a family feud. On Tuesday Siemens vented anger and disappointment at its former unit Osram, a German lighting company, attempting unsuccessfully to replace the chief executive, Olaf Berlien.

The public challenge to Osram’s senior manager — who was hired to introduce a far-reaching restructuring of the company around LED technology — was rare in Germany, where corporate disputes seldom are played out in public.

But Siemens, which spun off Osram in 2013 and still holds a 17.5 percent stake in its former unit, is not at all happy with the way Mr. Berlien presented his restructuring to investors last fall — which sparked a sell-off in Osram shares that caused Siemens’ investment to shrink by a third, to €680 million ($768 million).

At Osram’s shareholders meeting in Munich, where Siemens is also headquartered, Siemens’ representatives hammered Mr. Berlien over his restructuring plan, and in a seldom used tactic, withheld support for his continued employment, which is usually a pro forma vote in Germany.

While Mr. Berlien received support from 70 percent of Osram’s investor and was easily reaffirmed as the chief executive, analysts expect the feud between the lighting maker and its former parent to continue.

The dispute over Osram’s strategy might at some point still lead to the departure of Mr. Berlien or his colleague, chief financial officer Klaus Patzak, people familiar with the company said. Mr. Patzak is considered as a person with close ties to the Siemens chief executive, Joe Kaeser.


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Axel Höpfner is a Handelsblatt editor who writes about technology, lighting and Osram. To reach him: hoepfner@handelsblatt.com

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