Frans Muller leaves German retailer Metro

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A board shake-up at Metro has sparked the departure of one of its longest-serving executives, leaving the struggling German retailer with a top team relatively short on experience of running its operational businesses.

Frans Muller is leaving his role as board member for Metro Cash and Carry, the wholesale business from which the German group derives almost half its sales. Olaf Koch, chief executive, will take over the cash and carry responsibility, Metro said.

The reshuffle at Metro leaves Mr Koch, a former car industry executive, in direct control of two of Metro’s key retail divisions, although he will pass responsibility for Metro’s Kaufhof department stores, a much smaller unit, to Mark Frese, group finance chief.

Metro said the moves were “simplifying the organisation of its top management” and said Mr Muller, who had been involved in Metro’s cash and carry business for 15 years and had a contract until July next year, would leave at the end of the month by mutual consent.

“Cash and carry is so much the driver of Metro that it makes sense for the CEO to take charge responsibility himself,” said a person familiar with the company.

Jürgen Elfers, an analyst at Commerzbank, wrote in a note that Metro may have been unhappy with cash and carry’s performance under Mr Muller. “It is now up to Koch to deliver a better earnings scenario . . . [he] is already quite knowledgeable in the cash and carry division, but taking over from Muller certainly adds to the daily workload,” he wrote.

“The key question in our view is how well Koch manages to establish a set-up of senior divisional expertise that allows for the proper management of the key division of the group in Europe and Asia . . . one thing that can certainly be said is that Koch is firmly focused on establishing leaner and more efficient organisational structures.”

Metro’s management board is now light on retail experience. Mr Koch, who also has direct oversight of Real, Metro’s hypermarket division, joined Metro in 2009 as chief financial officer following a career at Daimler and subsequently at Permira, the private equity group.

Heiko Hutmacher, who is responsible for human resources, joined in 2011 after spending most of his career at IBM. Mr Frese has spent most of his career at Kaufhof, including a stint as a store manager, but has worked mainly on the financial side of the business.

Last month, Metro promoted Pieter Haas, an executive at its Media-Saturn electronics subsidiary, to represent that unit on the group board. The business, along with cash and carry, is where Metro sees most opportunities for growth, in spite of a retreat from China.

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