Heitmann was appointed the first CEO of Lanxess on Sept. 16, 2004. The firm said Heitmann played a key role in shaping the company since it spun off from a number of underperforming units from Bayer A.G. He sold a quarter of the initial portfolio and made a number of strategic investments to shape the company into the global specialty chemicals company it is today.
Lanxess was placed in Germany's blue-chip DAX Index in 2012.
"Mr. Heitmann has played a key role in shaping the company since its creation through consistent restructuring and strategic portfolio measures," said Rolf Stomberg, chairman of the supervisory board, in a news release. "He has formed Lanxess into a leading global specialty chemicals company, achieving many noticeable successes. The supervisory board expresses its sincere gratitude and high regard for Mr. Heitmann, also on behalf of all employees."
However the firm's businesses serving the automotive and tire markets have struggled in recent years. The company was the second-worst performer on Germany's DAX index last year. Lanxess reported an 88 percent drop in net income to $14.7 million for the third quarter of 2013, which it attributed to higher depreciation and amortization. The firm's sales also declined 5 percent to $2.81 billion.
The company reported a 9 percent volume increase year-on-year, but it did not offset the overall price decline of 11 percent. Lanxess said rubber prices fell particularly in the rubber businesses belonging to the Performance Polymers segment. The firm also cited negative currency effects as an impact.
Sales in the Performance Polymers segment fell by 8 percent to $1.47 million. Volumes increased by 14 percent with a strong increase in Asia. The company cited a difficult market environment and lower prices for raw materials—especially butadiene—that led to a 19-percent decrease in sale prices.
As a result, Lanxess revealed its plan in September 2013 to restructure its rubber business to reduce costs and jobs by 2015. It projects it will save $135.3 million annually by 2015 through the elimination of 1,000 jobs worldwide.
The company will spend approximately $202.1 million in one-off charges to cover its restructuring efforts, $107.8 million in 2013 and $94.3 million in 2014.
Lanxess said it also will pursue "strategic options" for some of its non-core businesses, including its rubber chemicals' accelerators and antioxidants lines, nitrile-butadiene rubber operation, and Perlon-Monofil polyamid and polyester monofilament products.
"Lanxess is facing significant challenges, for example in terms of market capacities and business portfolio," Stomberg said in a news release. "Therefore, the supervisory board believes it is the right time to hand over responsibility to a new leadership in order to overcome these challenges. Mr. Zachert performed excellent work as chief financial officer at Lanxess and has an outstanding reputation among employees as well as in the capital market."