There are at least three personal details that make you sit down and take note. The fluctuation on the upper floors of Lidl and Kaufland has always been high. But this time, three young senior executives of the Schwarz Group, the parent company of food discounters, did not leave of their own accord.
They are called Melanie Köhler, Annabel Ehm and Mareike Schwebke. The three personal details are directly linked to the surprising departure of Klaus Gehrig, 73, in early July. He had been running Europe’s largest food company since 2004 and promoting women without communicating it to the outside world.
Now it looks like the wheel is turned back.
The reason for Gehrig’s departure would have been the rise of Köhler. After the dispute, Lidl founder, 81, Dieter Schwarz, took over the management. He is considered the public man and the richest in Germany. Black wants to be at the head of the group until Gerd Chrzanowski, 49, becomes general partner and therefore leader of the group. We don’t know when it will be. But in fact, Chrzanowski already seems to be carrying out some important decisions on behalf of Dieter Schwarz. “Chrzanowski does the housework,” headlined the well-informed food journal (LZ) at the end of July.
She was responsible for all important areas
Previously, Chrzanowski had apparently prevailed in the power struggle with Melanie Köhler over Gehrig’s successor with the backing of Schwarz. The 30-year-old had previously had a meteoric career. She was chairman of the board of directors of Schwarz services, in which most of the group’s central functions are grouped, and a member of the general meeting of shareholders of Schwarz Unternehmensstreuhand, the group’s center of power. His area of responsibility included finance, control, production and real estate, all of which were growth departments.
When she was still there, they said she was doing a good job. The group is doing better today than ever. Internally, she was seen as the “figurehead” for the advancement of women in the group. Gehrig even raised her as his possible successor.
But now the two are gone, she since May, he since July.
Is it now over with the promotion of women? The group says no. “Of course, the path to a management position within the Schwarz Group is always open to women and men. Our commitment to equality corresponds to the values of the company and is lived at all levels”, said declared the company on request.
Open detailed view
Annabel Ehm: was part of the inner circle of power.
(Photo: Schwarz Group)
That may be, in the end, there is no insight into specific internal processes for an assessment. However, according to the food journal, the group has completely removed a central level apparently decisive for the promotion of women: the field of internal audit and consulting (IP&B). The department would have been directly subordinate to Gehrig and therefore powerful and feared by some. The head of the department was Annabel Ehm, 28. Thanks to Gehrig, she also moved from sales manager at Lidl to division management at group level.
Köhler and Ehm jumped several hierarchical levels and were given very high paying positions. Prior to Ehm, Köhler headed the IP&B division. Maraike Schwebke, 29, was also an authorized signatory with the rank of head of the department. His departure was known a few days ago.
When asked if Schwarz and Chrzanowski wanted to correct Gehrig’s promotion of women, the group said: “The particular importance of diversity and equal opportunities for the Schwarz group is underscored by the organizational grounding within the corporate structure. The department, which symbolized the advancement of women, reportedly abolished the group without replacement.
Some longtime male aspirants would have found it difficult to accept a rapidly ascended woman as superior. Some would have justified their dismissal by the extended powers of the IP&B department. The department would have had the last word on the assortment on the shelves.
The subject is high
What about the women at Schwarz? “In our retail divisions Kaufland and Lidl, as well as Schwarz Services, responsibility for the problem lies directly with the member of the human resources board,” the group said. Perhaps that too. However, “two prominent black women,” as the LZ calls them, left the group in the summer of last year, heading HR at Lidl and Kaufland.
There are of course other women in higher positions. Julia Kern, for example, is vice-director of Lidl Germany. In the search for a successor to Chrzanowski, who is still officially CEO of Lidl, she was not considered. From October, the Irishman Ken McGrath Chrzanowski will succeed him initially as deputy.
Printing can be misleading. But of Chrzanowski’s new “A-Team” only men are known to date, from Lidl and Kaufland to Schwarz Services, including IT, digitization, production and disposal. . Chrzanowski is said to have worked closely with all of the new CEOs who have been promoted. Men’s leagues.
Not so long ago, the LZ enthusiastically commented: “The fact that so many young women are coming to power at Lidl and Kaufland is not because the Schwarz Group is a seminar on gender science. Klaus Gehrig does not follow a business manual either, but its commercial sense. “This observation is also remarkable:” In the branch, we come full circle with women in leadership: if most of the employees in the branch are women, why should men of all understand better how they can be motivated? From today’s perspective, the question takes on a whole different tone.