Handelsblatt Ranking

Germany's Mightiest Corporate Watchdogs

Hagermann-Thomas Imo-photothek
Hanning Kagerman, the former SAP boss, is possibly the most powerful man in German business.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The homogeneity of German supervisory boards could pose a risk to sound corporate management if tunnel vision arises.

  • Facts


    • The ranking names Henning Kagermann, the former chief executive of software group SAP, as Germany’s most influential director.
    • There are only 11 women among the 100 corporate supervisors but the number may increase due to new legislation introducing a 30 percent quota for women.
    • Leading economist Michael Wolff, who helped compile the ranking, said the boards aren’t heterogeneous enough — which could be depriving German companies of fresh ideas.
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Two men are starting top corporate jobs today at two of Germany’s largest companies: John Cryan, a Brit, takes the reins at Deutsche Bank, and Herbert Diess, a German, will head Volkswagen’s VW-brand autos division.

Both will wield considerable power, of course, but the mightiest man in German business is someone else.

His name is Henning Kagermann, the former chief executive of the world’s largest business software maker SAP, according to an annual ranking of the country’s top non-executive supervisory board members. Handelsblatt compiled the list in cooperation with Michael Wolff, an economics professor at Göttingen University.

You might call supervisory boards in Germany the bosses of the bosses. Members of these boards have the power to hire and fire a company’s managers – as seen recently with the appointment of Mr. Cryan – and wield considerable influence over the direction of a company. The supervisory board has to sign off on any key strategic decisions taken by managers. Many top supervisors sit on multiple company boards.

Mr. Kagermann heads the National Platform for Electric Mobility, an organization committed to establishing a mass market for electric cars in Germany, and has seats on the supervisory boards of BMW, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Post and re-insurer Munich Re, which are all blue chip firms in Germany.

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