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Maersk reshuffle signals shift in family priorities

Robert Maersk Uggla, the third-generation heir to Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk, has been appointed chief executive of the family’s holding company in a move that will distance the family from daily operations.
Robert Maersk Uggla, the third-generation heir to Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk

Robert Maersk Uggla, the third-generation heir to Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk, has been appointed chief executive of the family’s holding company in a move that will distance the family from daily operations.

As of September 2016, Uggla will step down from the top job at Maersk-owned tugboat operator Svitzer to become CEO of AP Moller Holding, which holds 41.5% of shares and 51% of voting rights in the Copenhagen-based shipping company.

Maersk’s management reshuffle is another example of family leaders relinquishing day-to-day operations in 2016 in order to focus on strategy, the most notable of which came in March when Swedish billionaire Cristina Stenbeck stepped down as chairman at her family’s investment company Kinnevik.

Henriette H Thygesen, who has been with the Maersk Group for 22 years, will become the new CEO of Svitzer, according to a press release, which added that the reshuffle will allow the family to concentrate on the oversight of the business. 

“Given the development of AP Moller Holding, now is the right time to strengthen the organisation, starting with the recruitment of a new CEO,” said Ane Maersk Mc-Kinney Uggla, chairman of AP Moller Holding, and Robert’s mother.

AP Moller Holding was established in 2013 to provide better cash flow to the group through the transfer of Maersk shares from the AP Moller Foundation, which at the time had been obliged to use all dividends for donations.

While Maersk has been able to manage weak demand and the slump in freight rates more effectively that its competitors, the appointment of 38-year-old Uggla comes at a difficult time for Maersk: 2015 revenues fell to $40.3 billion from $47.6 billion in the previous year.

Maersk Group chief executive Nils Andersen said Uggla’s performance at Svitzer will help mitigate those losses moving forward: "The past four years as chief executive of Svitzer, Robert has successfully restructured the company, improved both financial and safety performance, and ensured a strong pipeline of long-term contracts, which will drive future growth.”

Peter Mærsk-Moller and his son Arnold Peter Moller founded a predecessor company that eventually became AP Moller-Maersk in 1904. The fourth-generation business is today the largest shipping company in the world.


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