Cement manufacturers Holcim and Lafarge agreed a year ago to merge, but the €40 billion deal nearly collapsed in a battle over leadership and the deal’s one for one share exchange structure. Over lunch last week, Holcim supervisory board chair Wolfgang Reitzle and Lafarge CEO Bruno Lafont managed to save it.
Mr. Reitzle got a better price for his shareholders through the payment of a special dividend by Lafarge and prevented Mr. Lafont from taking over as sole head of the new group. He must, however, accept Mr. Lafont as co-chair until a new chairman is chosen. In an interview with Handelsblatt, Mr. Reitzle explained how the new co-leadership could work.
Handelsblatt: You wanted to prevent Bruno Lafont from becoming the merged company’s new chief executive. Now you and he will be co-chairmen. How’s that going to go?
Mr. Reitzle: I have always had a good personal relationship with Bruno Lafont and could always discuss all topics openly with him – even in the past days. It is well-known there was friction between him and Holcim managers. That unleashed frustrations, but doesn’t mean Mr. Lafont would not be important for us.
Understandably, the past days created hard feelings at Lafarge, because we wanted a change in future leadership. Such a step is not trivial and leaves marks. Now I need him so that Lafarge employees will continue to support the merger. He has been with the company for more than 30 years and can provide very valuable services. The deal is a victory for both companies.