Bonn. Frank Appel, head of Deutsche Post, is 58. The debate about his successor has already begun within the group. Chief financial officer Melanie Kreis currently has the best chance. She would be the first woman to head a DAX company group.
When it comes to the management of Deutsche Post, CEO Frank Appel has three wisdoms: first, the election of a new CEO can come much sooner than expected; in February 2008, he unexpectedly became number one at the age of 48 when his predecessor Klaus Zumwinkel had to resign because of a tax scandal. Secondly, Appel believes it is good for corporations like Deutsche Post if a CEO stays in office for a long rather than a short time. He himself has been in office for eleven and a half years, his predecessor Zumwinkel lasted 18 years at the top. And because Appel, at 58, is slowly approaching the age limit of 65, he has allowed three board members to be installed in recent years - Melanie Kreis (48), Tobias Meyer (44) and Thomas Ogilvy (42) - who would be perfect as successors in terms of age in a few years’ time – or earlier, in an emergency.
“It is fundamentally good for a company if there are also people on the board who have a sufficient age difference to the CEO,” Appel told our editorial team. However, he also made clear that he would not be the one to choose his successor: “The supervisory board decides who fills board of management positions.”
Detailed analysis shows, however, that the chances of succession are very unevenly distributed. If there were an unexpectedly rapid change of guard, CFO Melanie Kreis would be the clear favourite. She would then be the first woman to head a DAX company group.
The 48-year-old physicist has been a board member since 2014, has headed the important finance department since 2016 and has an excellent reputation. In the ranking of the most powerful women in the world, published annually by the US magazine Forbes, she recently ranked 61st; Angela Merkel is the only other German woman represented.
But the longer Frank Appel, who is by no means tired of his current job, remains in the boss’s chair at the 42 storey Post Tower, the more clearly Tobias Meyer could at some point calculate his chances. The 44 year-old mechanical engineer’s shortcoming is that he only joined the board in March. If he succeeds in whipping the somewhat troubled German letter and parcel business into shape, the chances increase.
Although Kreis and Meyer are the clear front runners in the race for the Deutsche Post leadership, there are two other possible candidates. Tim Schwarwath is considered more of an outsider. The business graduate from Hamburg is regarded as an excellent logistics expert and is currently proving himself as a tough reorganiser of the Global Forwarding Division, but two shortcomings remain: at 54, he is only four years younger than Frank Appel, and Schwarwath has only been with the group for two years. The second outsider in the race is Thomas Ogilvie. From an age perspective, the 42-year-old psychologist and doctor of economics would be an option in a few years time, but a human resources director has almost never become head of a DAX group of companies. And while Kreis studied in the US and France, and Meyer worked in Singapore, Ogilvie is missing posts outside the German-speaking world. “I am a self-confessed, happy Bonn resident,” he says.
A personnel consultant believes: “If Ogilvie were to become responsible on the board for one of the internationally active operating divisions such as Express, Supply Chain or E-Commerce, he could still bring himself into the frame as the head of Deutsche Post.” These three divisions are currently managed by British and Americans, who are all too old and not sufficiently rooted in Germany to become Deutsche Post CEO.
(Original text: Reinhard Kowalewsky, Claudia Mahnke. Translation: kc)