After months of internal disputes over the chairmanship of the Neumüller Cewe Color Stiftung for next year, the Board of Trustees has appointed Yvonne Rostock to succeed Dr. Christian Friege. She is to take over the CEO function as well as overall responsibility for sales in the Cewe Group by April 2023 at the latest.
Yvonne Rostock has been Managing Director of the perfume and cosmetics group Coty since 2019. Previously, she worked for L’Oréal in various management roles in Germany and abroad for almost two decades. She started her professional career at Henkel.
When Yvonne Rostock takes over as CEO of probably the best-known photo service provider in April 2023, she will be the first woman to head Cewe.
Internal disputes over the chairmanship of the Executive Board
The appointment of the new CEO was preceded by internal disagreements. In mid-March of this year, the Board of Trustees surrounding former Cewe CEO Dr. Rolf Hollander announced that it would not extend Dr. Christian Friege’s five-year contract beyond the end of the year. However, the Supervisory Board and also the heirs of the company’s founder Heinz Neumüller, who are Cewe’s largest shareholders with a combined 27.1%, did not agree with this. They had spoken out in favour of extending the contract.
Due to the tensions that had arisen, the Board of Trustees felt compelled a short time later to comment on the reasons for not extending Friege’s contract: The statement spoke of Friege’s “acceptable to good work,” of “concerns,” and of no longer having “unrestricted trust.” The board of trustees also said Friege had not sufficiently recognized or implemented the issue of women’s advancement during his years of leadership.
The response from the heirs, who continued to stand behind Dr. Christian Friege and valued his successes as head of Cewe, followed just two weeks later: at the end of April, Alexander Neumüller, a beneficiary of the Neumüller Cewe Color Stiftung, exercised his special right to appoint a member of the Board of Management and appointed Friege to the Board. As a result, the still-Cewe CEO would continue in his position beyond December 31, 2022, according to the company’s press release at the time.
Photo service provider increases dividend despite decline in sales
The public airing of the disputes had at times caused disbelief in the industry. After all, the photo services provider had grown in recent years and thus under Friege’s leadership: the group’s sales grew steadily from EUR 599 million in 2017 to EUR 727.3 million in 2020. In the second year of Corona, 2021, however, Cewe recorded a decline in sales to EUR 692 million. Nevertheless, at the Annual General Meeting of Cewe Stiftung & Co. KGaA in mid-June a resolution was passed to increase the dividend for the thirteenth year in succession.
Pacification of the tense situation
With the appointment of Yvonne Rostock, calm is now expected to return to the company. This is also according to a detailed report in the Handelsblatt. Although the appointment of Rostock, it says, is just as surprising as the news of the non-renewal of Friege’s contract in March, there has so far been no known reaction from the largest shareholder, the heirs.