Linde Leadership

Waiting for the Second Coming

Linde Montage DPA
Deja vu at Linde?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Mr. Reitzle had 11 successful years at the helm. His knowledge of the company and sector could make him and his more approachable successor a good double act. 

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Linde is the world’s biggest industrial gases company, making gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen used by the engineering and auto industries.
    • When he left Linde, Wolfgang Reitzle dictated the mid-term goals for the upcoming years and publicly stated that his successor better not make changes to the strategy.
    • Mr. Reitzle investigated whether he could make use of an exemption to the corporate governance rule that prevents a direct change from the management board to the supervisory board.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

The former chief executive at industrial gas giant Linde, Wolfgang Reitzle, is set for a comeback. He is being tipped to take over as chairman of the supervisory board, the powerful non-executive body that has the power to sign off or block top management decisions, Handelsblatt has learned.

Investors and board members, disappointed with the firm’s performance during the tenure of his successor, hope that from the supervisory chair, Mr. Reitzle can help turn the company’s flagging fortunes around.

Things have not being going particularly well for his successor as chief executive, Wolfgang Büchele.

On November 30, after he downgraded the Munich-based engineering and pharmaceuticals giant’s profit forecasts for a second time, the share price dropped 14 percent. Investors and staff were deeply concerned.

Mr. Büchele then announced the company’s third profit warning in December. The stock dropped another 15 percent in minutes, and Linde lost €4.7 billion, or $5.15 billion, in market value.

These events and what seems like the increasingly helpless reaction of Mr. Büchele and the supervisory board chairman Manfred Schneider, who is to leave Linde in the spring 2016, after 12 years as chief overseer, fueled an intense discussion in the Linde board. Board members wished that they might be transported back to the golden age under Mr. Büchele’s predecessor, Wolfgang Reitzle.

Now it seems their prayers have been answered. Mr. Reitzle really is coming back, as chairman of the supervisory board. Handelsblatt has learned that a majority of shareholder representatives are in favor of Mr. Reitzle taking over this important role.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.