Klaus Gehrig vacates executive chair at Schwarz Group

end of an era

05-Jul-2021 - Germany
Under his leadership, the Lidl parent company became the largest food retailer in Europe. The departure comes suddenly - in a dispute over a personnel matter. But a successor is ready.

End of an era at Europe's largest food retailer: The head of the Schwarz Group (Lidl, Kaufland)
Klaus Gehrig surprisingly resigned from his post on Friday. The manager spontaneously decided to take this step because he was unable to reach an agreement with the 81-year-old owner Dieter Schwarz on a personnel issue that was very important to him, the Schwarz Group announced on Friday.

The 73-year-old Gehrig is largely unknown to the general public. But as the owner's right-hand man, he is said to have played a decisive role in helping the company, with its subsidiaries
Lidl and Kaufland, grow from a small retailer with just over 30 stores to a global group with more than 12,500 stores in 33 countries and sales of more than 113
billion euros in just over 40 years. Gehrig made Lidl not only the biggest competitor of discount inventor Aldi, but also the biggest food retailer in Europe.

All the more unusual was how short and concise the group announced the separation on Friday. Only five sentences were enough to end the decades-long partnership. "Klaus Gehrig is no
longer head of the Schwarz Group," the announcement read. Dieter Schwarz had thanked the manager for the great development work of the past years and had given him leave of absence with the proviso that the
further cooperation would be settled in a further discussion. And then still: "The relationship between Dieter Schwarz and Klaus Gehrig is still unclouded."

For many years, Gehrig had whipped the retail giant forward with an iron hand. According to media reports, he was nicknamed "killer whale" within the company. The fact is that anyone who did not meet Gehrig's
expectations did not remain in his post for long. Numerous Lidl top managers in particular had to experience this first hand. "We operate in a tough competitive environment, so I can
only say: either we hold our own, or we're out of the market," Gehrig justified his toughness in one of his rare interviews.

In recent years, the personnel merry-go-round in the Schwarz Group had been spinning faster and faster. Only one person remained unaffected by the turbulence: Gehrig himself. Until now.

According to earlier statements, Gehrig had actually only wanted to hand over the management of the group to other hands at the age of 75 - in other words, in two years' time. Retirement did not seem tempting to him. In an interview he once said, "Am I working because I can't be without work? Honestly, yes."

The company remained silent on exactly which personnel issue ultimately led to his sudden retirement. Already in May, the 30-year-old top manager Melanie Köhler, who was very much supported by Gehrig, had surprisingly left the company.

Gehrig had made headlines most recently when he reacted unusually openly to farmers' protests against the retailer's pricing policy at the end of last year, announcing 50 million euros in emergency aid for pig farmers and proposing an ombudsman's office to settle conflicts between retailers and farmers.

Gehrig is to be succeeded by his current deputy, 49-year-old Lidl boss Gerd Chrzanowski. The succession plan had already been announced last year. But so far no date for the change of office had been mentioned.

However, the designated successor is not expected to take up the new post immediately. Owner Schwarz will hold the position of general partner vacated by Gehrig himself until
Chrzanowski can take over the mandate, the Schwarz Group explained. According to "Lebensmittel Zeitung", Chrzanowski is considered a shrewd strategist and one of the fathers of the new upgraded
Lidl store generation.(dpa)
Bild von Frauke Feind auf Pixabay

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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