CEO Horst Norberg has left electronics chain Media-Saturn immediately after yet another argument with minority shareholder (and founder) Erich Kellerhals sealed his fate.
Minority shareholder puts CEO job on offer
Media-Saturn is still struggling, Norberg told Der Spiegel. "After what happened these past few days, I doubt I have the full backing of the shareholders to keep my position at the top of this company." Norberg, who has been with the company for 27 years, normally would have been active as CEO until 2015.
The final straw were the remarks Kellerhals had sent to majority shareholder Metro, talking about the company's struggle and how he questioned Norberg's managerial qualities. He even placed a job opening for a successor on his own personal website in April.
The shareholders were quarrelling over the concern's expansion plans and its online strategy, with internet sales pushing back Media-Saturn's sales and profit. Right before he resigned, Norberg stated that the company should focus more on multichannel, but he will no longer be in charge to execute that strategy.
"We have reached the maximum in the old model and this is when an enterprise has to reinvent itself, because otherwise things will only go downhill. That is why we are going into a new direction, full force", Norberg said of the multichannel direction Media-Saturn will focus on.
"We are optimizing our concepts in our actual stores and we are rapidly expanding our own online activities, but unlike pure online players, we are developing an actual multichannel approach. Customers will be able to buy and return items, wherever they bought them, whether that is online or in a store." Media-Saturn E-Business will become the service company that will develop this strategy in all 17 countries Media-Saturn is present, even though 200 jobs will be lost.
On top of that, the chain wants to increase its offline presence as well, with a discount concept (Media Markt Depot) and a smaller concept for inner-city areas (Saturn Concept). The Connected World concept is meant for countries Media Markt has already thoroughly penetrated.
Its online pillars, Redcoon and 003.ru will also receive the company's full backing as they have experienced "above average growth, compared to the total market". Norberg believes the entire strategy will allow the company to "answer a wide range of customer requests".
Metro appoints Pieter Haas
Kellerhals is one of the founders Media-Saturn and still owns 21 % of shares, enough to block any important decision as they need to be ratified by 80 % of the shares. That veto was agreed upon in 1988, when the majority of the founders sold their shares to Kaufman, which moved to Metro later on. Metro, the majority shareholder, has long wanted that power to disappear.
Metro has now appointed Pieter Haas, who has worked for Media-Saturn from 2001 to 2013, as the new CEO. His experience as the one who laid out the strategy, developed the brands, helped create the multichannel strategy and the computer infrastructure should help him along. Since April 2013, he has worked for Metro itself, but Kellerhals does not believe him fit to be the CEO and he has already stated he wants to be involved in the process to elect the actual CEO.