ThyssenKrupp AG held its annual meeting Friday and was attended by thousands of shareholders who were angry at the past year’s failures and anxious to hear what solutions management could offer.
Supervisory Board Chairman Gerhard Cromme faced intense pressure from some shareholders to resign over the Steel Americas debacle but held his ground. “If you ask me whether we as a supervisory board could have done things better in the past, then my honest answer is ‘yes, we trusted too long, we could have acted sooner’,” he said. Cromme’s comments elicited both boos and cheers as he continued to shift primary blame for the Steel America losses to the Executive Board.
Dr. Heinrich Hiesinger, Chairman of the Executive Board of ThyssenKrupp AG addressed the failings and future prospects for ThyssenKrupp. The following are excerpts from his speech to the shareholders.
Media reports have spoken of a “billion-euro morass”, a “company in crisis” and “ThyssenKrupp in a minefield”. Although they present an exaggerated and one-sided view that in no way does justice to your Company and its employees, it is nonetheless clear that a great deal has gone wrong in the past. We have recognized this, and we are putting things right.
For this we must look to the future. If we continue to focus exclusively on the past we will find countless things that were not appropriate by today’s standards. The media can list every single trip made by a board member, it will teach us nothing new. We openly admit that a lot of things went wrong, a lot of things were inappropriate or behind the times.
Our old leadership culture was characterized by ‘old boys’ networks’ and blind loyalty in many areas. Negative developments were concealed rather than corrected. And unfortunately there were obviously some who thought that rules, regulations and laws do not apply to everyone
In recent weeks there has been much public discussion mainly about the transgressions and weaknesses of ThyssenKrupp. … Little is made of the fact that six out of eight business areas, or three quarters of the company, are profitable. And hardly anyone seems to have noticed that our capital goods business achieved a record level of new orders. To be honest, I believe news like this has no resonance with the public at this time.
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