Akzo Chief Ton Büchner Steps Down
Thierry Vanlancker has been named as new CEO
Citing health reasons, Ton Büchner stepped down as CEO of Akzo Nobel with immediate effect on Jul. 19. The 52-year-old executive, who took a leave of absence due to exhaustion early in his tenure at the Dutch coatings producer in 2012 and returned months later, had recently been under pressure after successfully deflecting a takeover attempt by US rival PPG.
Thanking Büchner in a statement, Akzo Nobel credited him with “significantly improving” the performance of the company, increasing profitability and taking cash flow to record levels. “He put in place a solid operational and financial foundation, which enabled the company to recently announce the creation of two focused high performing businesses: paints and coatings and specialty chemicals,” the statement read.
In a statement of his own, Buechner said: "For me this was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make but my focus must now be on my health.”
Thierry Vanlancker, who has headed Akzo’s speciality chemicals unit, which it is spinning off, has been named as new CEO. The Belgian national joined the company in 2016 after heading the Fluorproducts arm of DuPont spin-off Chemours. It will now fall to him to implement the separation.
The Dutch company was first targeted by PPG Is in early March of this year. The US firm made altogether three bids, in the final thrust going as high as $30 billion, reports said. As fall-out from the thwarted deal, Akzo is now facing a series of lawsuits launched by its biggest shareholder, aggressive US hedge fund Elliott Management.
Elliott, which said it is seeking “enhanced shareholder value,” is also seeking to have AkzoNobel’s supervisory board chairman, Antony Burgmans, removed. With the fund’s blessing, PPG is also said to be considering a fresh bid later this year. Dutch law foresees a six month cooling-off period before another move can be made.
To successfully thwart another PPG bid, Akzo’s management will be under massive pressure to create and deliver value, analysts said.