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Radical shake-up of Weleda top management to restore profitability

By Christian von Arnim

BASEL (NNA) - The continuing economic difficulties of the Swiss-based medicines and natural cosmetics group Weleda have led to a complete shake-up of the top management. 

At an extraordinary general meeting called at short notice at the end of March, shareholders elected a new administrative board after they had unexpectedly demanded the resignation of the previous board. The economist and banking expert, Paul Mackay, a member of the executive council of the General Anthroposophical Society, has been appointed as president of the new administrative board.

In a separate move, Ralph Heinisch, a specialist in restructuring companies, has been appointed as the new CEO after his predecessor, Patrick Sirdey, stepped down earlier this year. The current CFO Patrick Kersting has also left the company “by mutual agreement”. The management consultant and auditor Heinz Stübi will take his job on a temporary basis until a permanent successor is appointed. Mackay is joined by Dr.? Jürg Galliker, Dr.? Andreas Jäschke, Dr.? Harald Matthes and Elfi Seiler on the new administrative board.

In a statement the company said that it was the “declared aim” of the new administrative board president to restore the profitability of Weleda in the short term and to return it to a solid earnings base. “The current administrative board stepped down at the wish of the main shareholders, the General Anthroposophical Society and the Ita Wegman Klinik. A new election was held because Weleda requires an administrative board that can function,” the statement said.

According to figures from Weleda, the company is heading for a loss of 10m Swiss francs (£6.86m, US$10.87m) in the 2011 financial year on anticipated group turnover of 380m Swiss francs (£260.67m, US$413.11m).

While staff at the company have a adopted a wait-and-see attitude despite the uncertainty created by the radical change at the top, an interview with Mackay in the Basler Zeitung newspaper makes clear that the main shareholders had lost confidence in the corporate strategy of the old administrative board or, indeed, saw it as wrong. The important thing was to fully utilise the potential of the company, Mackay said. Weleda needed strong leadership “so that the staff know in which direction the company is heading.” The medicine and natural cosmetics producer was in a slump. Liquidity had to be secured and profitability strengthened. “But the question also needs to be answered as to the way that Weleda is set up,” Mackay told the Basler Zeitung.

Mackay refused to go into detail about how the new strategy would look in concrete terms. It was still too early for that, he said. The current situation still had to be examined. But he refused to rule out anything, including bringing the currently separate medicines and natural cosmetics business units together again. In a policy which had raised concerns among some anthroposophical doctors, the previous management had embarked on a policy of making the loss-making medicines self-supporting without any cross-subsidy from the profitable natural cosmetics. Both had to be seen in a single context, the new administrative board president said in the interview.

Mackay did not want to commit himself either in response to the question whether parts of the company would have to close or there would be job losses: “That would have to be considered very carefully,” he said, “but I cannot exclude anything at this point.”

It is further unclear what effect these developments will have on the worldwide Weleda companies. It was still too early to be able to provide precise information about that, sources in the company said. Mackay, too, left the question open: “We have to look at these things now. We have to ask ourselves in general: what can we afford?”


Item: 120417-01EN Date: 17 April 2012

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