Family-controlled retail giant Metro is without its two top executives, after Jürgen Kluge, chairman of the group’s supervisory board, resigned just days after chief executive Eckhard Cordes decided not to extend his contract.
Kluge stepped down on 17 October, but will remain chief executive of Haniel & Cie, the investment company controlled by the Haniel family which owns 34.4% of the Dusseldorf, Germany-based retailer.
In a statement, Metro’s management board said it respected his decision and thanked Kluge, who will serve a one-month notice period, for his support in repositioning the company “in challenging times”.
Franz Markus Haniel, head of the Haniel family, will be proposed as a new member of the board and, according to reports in the German press, looks set to take over Kluge’s post.
The 56-year-old previously served as Metro’s chairman between November 2007 and May 2010.
Kluge's resignation came a week after Cordes said he did not wish to renew his contract beyond October 2012, because he no longer had the full support of the supervisory board.
“I have come to the conclusion that the trustful basis to stay on as the head of Metro's top management does not anymore exist,” Cordes said in a statement, adding that public speculation regarding the prolongation of his contract “threatened to harm the company, the principal shareholders” and himself.
Cordes had been criticised for his plans to cut jobs and for not selling department-store chain Kaufhof and hypermarkets unit Real.
However, in the past few weeks, the group’s largest shareholders – the Haniel family and the Schmidt-Ruthenbeck family, which controls 16% of the company – were said to be in favour of an extension of Cordes’s contract.
It is still unclear when Cordes will officially leave Metro, but he is expected to do so before his contract officially expires in October 2012. A spokesman for the company told CampdenFB that the topic will be discussed at the next meeting of the supervisory board, which will take place in early November.
Metro was established in 1964 by Otto Beisheim who three years later was joined by the Haniel and Schmidt-Ruthenbeck families.
The group is now the fourth-largest retail company in the world, after Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco. In 2010, it reported sales of €67 billion.