Economy & Politics

At Siemens, Joe Kaeser is concerned with his own myth

Capital columnist Bernd Ziesemer columnist Bernd ZiesemerMartin Kress

The most powerful managers find it hardest to let go at the end of their careers. New constructions are always needed to postpone the final day of farewell. At Thyssenkrupp, for example, the aged Bertold Beitz wanted to intervene in operational business as “Honorary Chairman” of the Supervisory Board at the age of 90. It was the same at Deutsche Bank, where the outgoing boss Josef Ackermann stirred up the board and the supervisory board at the very last minute with finely worked intrigues. And so it is now also at Siemens, where Joe Kaeser fights for the last bit of power – and above all for his own myth.

Actually, with the presentation of the latest business figures in the last week, Joe Kaeser could calm down and vacate his executive chair to the great applause of most of the shareholders. As the Corona crisis has shown, Siemens is in a better and more stable position than almost all of its direct competitors. Joe Kaeser has just arranged the largest takeover in the company’s history at Siemens Healthineers. And with his move to the top of the Siemens Energy Supervisory Board, the Upper Bavarian is already retaining a great deal of influence in the group. But that’s not enough for a man whom they have long called “Kaiser” in the company.

Kaeser wants to do both at all costs: to remain in office as CEO of the entire group until the Annual General Meeting on February 4, 2021 – and at the same time to move to the top of the local supervisory board immediately after Siemens Energy went public on September 28 this year. For that to work somehow, the new Siemens boss Roland Busch has to get involved in a downright adventurous construction on the board. Busch will officially assume “responsibility for the 2021 financial year” on October 1st, but Joe Kaeser will remain CEO and will “actively accompany” the “transition” until the Annual General Meeting, as the press release says.

Until the very last minute in office

Anyone who remembers the “active support” at Siemens Energy in recent months, where Kaeser threw the long-term management duo out of the company at the last minute, has to reckon with everything during this “transition” in the entire group. One can only feel sorry for Roland Busch. Seldom has a new boss in a German company been led around the ring by the nose ring for as long as at Siemens.

The Stock Corporation Act does not provide for such a division of labor. It flagrantly contradicts the spirit of good corporate governance. It clearly serves only one purpose: to keep Joe Kaeser in office until the very last minute so that he can continue tinkering with his own myth and turn the general meeting in February into a kind of triumphal march for himself. His confidants are already spreading that the years since 2014 under Kaeser have been nothing more than the consistent implementation of a “master plan”.

Oh well. It was probably not quite like that. When Kaeser pushed through the completely overpriced and ultimately strategically failed takeover of Dresser-Rand in the USA in the first year of his tenure, his “master plan” looked very different from today. Kaeser himself headed the press release on the purchase of the American gas turbine manufacturer in September 2014 as follows: “Siemens is continuing to implement its Vision 2020 with a decisive step to strengthen its core business.” And the “Wall Street Journal” summarized its strategy at the time as follows: “Joe Kaeser concentrates, the German conglomerate entirely on energy. ”But when powerful men leave, their history is often rewritten afterwards. Or at least try.

Bernd Ziesemer is a capital columnist. The business journalist was editor-in-chief of the Handelsblatt from 2002 to 2010. Afterwards he was managing director of the corporate publishing division of the Hoffmann und Campe publishing house until 2014. Ziesemer’s column appears regularly on You can follow him on Twitter here.

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