COLOGNE, Germany—Lanxess A.G.'s incoming CEO, Matthias Zachert, has a “hardcore” approach to getting staff to sign up for running events—cajoling them at lunch breaks or in meetings, said Rando Bruns, treasurer at Zachert's former employer Merck KGaA.
Zachert, 46 years old and an avid runner, may need some of the stamina he uses to finish half marathons when he starts his new post at the helm of Cologne-based Lanxess.
The company, the world's largest maker of synthetic rubber, in February posted its first annual loss since it was spun off from Bayer A.G. in 2005, cut its dividend in half and was the second-worst performer on Germany's benchmark index last year.
At stake for Zachert, who was finance chief at Lanxess for seven years until 2011, will be tackling a portfolio heavily geared toward the automotive and tire industries after European car sales fell to a 20-year low last year.
“Zachert desperately needs to wave a magic wand,” said MM Warburg analyst Oliver Schwarz, who has a hold rating on the company's shares. “He could cut the Gordian knot by selling part of the company for an attractive price, preferably a bit that has lower margins.”
Lanxess' board decided to replace former CEO Axel Heitmann after the company failed to close on acquisition opportunities to reduce its reliance on the auto and tire industries, a person familiar with the matter said when Zachert's appointment was announced on Jan. 26. The company also expanded its synthetic rubber operations in Asia after that business began struggling from price competition.