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    Uniper COO, CCO Resign from November


Succesful co-operation with Fortum has eluded Uniper once more.

by: William Powell

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Uniper COO, CCO Resign from November

German utility Uniper will lose its chief operating officer Eckhardt Rummler and chief commercial officer Keith Martin with effect from November 30, the company said May 26. The two cited the difficulties of working with the company's biggest shareholder Fortum as the reason for their resignations.

Fortum expressed its disappointment the same day and told NGW last week that the problem related to management behaviour in Russia, where Uniper has a power subsidiary, Unipro.

Supervisor board member Bernhard Reutersberg said that while "deeply regretting" the decisions, he understood them, "in view of the unmistakably expressed mistrust of our major shareholder Fortum towards the entire Uniper management board. In addition, postponing the vote of discharge yet another year effectively puts undue pressure on them to behave in certain ways. On this basis, it is simply impossible for Eckhardt Rummler and Keith Martin to continue."

Last week, at Fortum's request, the annual general meeting postponed the discharge of the management board for the 2017 and 2018 financial years, contrary to the explicit recommendation of the board, the company said. 

Rummler said that he and Martin reinitiated the co-operation talks with Fortum after the resignation of Klaus Schafer and Christopher Delbruck and made good progress. "I therefore regret all the more that the trust placed in me verbally several times was not reflected in Fortum's voting behavior at the AGM. I have always stressed that I can only do my job well if the main shareholder expresses its trust in me. This is particularly not the case if unspecified allegations against me are used as justification for the non-discharge. I hope the newly appointed members of the Management Board will manage to establish a constructive working relationship with Fortum."

Martin said it "takes more than the absolute will to achieve a good solution for Fortum and Uniper on a factual level. My positive attitude has been undermined by the recent public statements made by Fortum. It is therefore only logical that my decision should allow a positive development of the discussions with Fortum."

Reutersberg said that instead of extending the hand of peace, Fortum's "provocative and contradictory behavior" especially before and during the annual general meeting had put Uniper in a difficult situation. He called on Fortum to "finally start discussing constructively a way forward which is feasible for both companies."

Fortum CEO Pekka Lundmark thanked Rummler and Martin "for all their work for Uniper's success and their collaboration this spring. I also want to underline that the decision to vote for postponement of the discharge of the management board at Uniper’s AGM was a result of the lack of transparency on management conduct during and after our public takeover offer, not a sign of mistrust of management as a whole. Fortum has been and remains ready to discuss constructively with Uniper the best way forward for both companies. Our focus is now on establishing dialogue with the new CEO and CFO and reignite our talks. We are confident that together we can make a joint vision reality.”

Fortum told NGW last week that its concern related to the actions of Uniper management that led to a water testing and treatment facility owned by its Russian subsidiary Unipro, at its Surgutskaya plant, being entered into the list of strategic activities in Russia. "We would like to get more clarity on these actions before discharging management from liability. Even though the activities listed as strategic are minuscule in relation to Unipro or Uniper, it still limits Fortum's ownership in Uniper to below 50%," its statement said.