FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Eckhard Cordes, chief executive of German retailer Metro MEOG.DE, said he no longer wishes to renew his contract, just weeks after winning support from the group’s top shareholder.
Cordes had seemed in danger of losing his job last month after reports that he had fallen out of favor with some supervisory board members, who were due to vote later in the autumn on whether his contract would be extended past October 2012.
However, he battled for support among other members of the board and in a rare public statement, the Haniel family, which owns 34.24 percent of Metro, said they were in favor of a contract extension for Cordes.
Cordes, who informed the supervisory board and major shareholders of his decision on Sunday, criticized the public debate over his contract, saying it threatened to harm the company, its principal shareholders and himself.
“Due to the incidents of the recent weeks and months I have come to the conclusion that the trustful basis to stay on as the head of Metro’s top management does not anymore exist,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Cordes, a turnaround specialist and former Daimler (DAIGn.DE) manager, had come under fire for failing to find buyers for department store chain Kaufhof and hypermarkets unit Real, and a program of job cuts had been criticized by labor representatives.
The Metro share price has also slumped 38 percent this year on fears of lackluster consumer spending and as sales dropped at one-time star performer MediaMarkt-Saturn, the chain of consumer electronics stores majority owned by the group.
A source close to the company said Cordes would not leave Metro straight away and would stay on until a succession process had been decided.
A separate source also close to the company said that Cordes was likely to leave over the European winter and that current Chief Financial Officer Olaf Koch might take the helm on an interim basis until a new chief executive were found.
The Haniel family, which holds the Metro stake via the Franz Haniel & Cie investment company, said in a statement that Cordes’ decision merited “our recognition and respect.”
The Schmidt-Ruthenbeck family, who own around 16 percent of Metro and were also in favor of a contract extension for Cordes, said on Sunday they regretted Cordes’ decision.
“We believe Cordes staying would have been best for the further development of Metro. Therefore we would like him if possible to stay until his contract expires,” said Peter Kuepfer, who represents the family on the Metro supervisory board.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters