CEWE board reveals CEO departure due to conflict over diversity

In a rare moment of disclosure, the board of trustees of CEWE Color claimed its CEO, Dr. Christian Friege  “massively obstructed” diversity and the appointment of a woman as a board member, which led to his contract not being renewed.

A spokesperson for CEWE told Reuters the management board Friege chairs does not make management board appointments and that four women had been promoted to executive leadership positions in the past few years. The company’s seven-person board of management has one woman member and the 12-person board of directors has seven women members, according to the company management listing.

Below is the text of the announcement:

The majority decision taken by the Board of Trustees of the Neumüller CEWE COLOR Stiftung on 17.3.22 not to renew the contract of CEO Christian Friege after it expires on 31.12.2022 has led to a number of questions both internally and externally. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Rolf Hollander, has therefore been instructed by the Board of Trustees to provide the following clarification.

Dr. Christian Friege

Despite Friege’s thoroughly acceptable to good work, which most recently led to slightly declining results in 2021, concerns about Friege’s performance and behavior have been developing among the Board of Trustees for some time. Two-thirds of the members of the board of trustees are firmly convinced that Friege no longer has the necessary unrestricted trust to renew his contract – for both personal and substantive reasons. Even with an overall well-positioned business model and the popular CEWE brand, the Board of Trustees believes that the Group needs to act more dynamically with new profit-promising impulses in a market threatened by increasingly aggressive competition.

Christian Friege’s failure to recognize and implement the socially and internally important issue of women on the Board of Management and in other management functions is, in the opinion of Chairman Rolf Hollander, an inexcusable omission. Friege had not pushed the necessity of promoting diversity in the company and the process of appointing a woman as a member of the Board of Management for Human Resources and Organizational Development by the Board of Trustees, but on the contrary had massively obstructed it.

In addition, he had not supported an initiative for the promotion of women within the company driven by CEWE employees. This shows how unimportant the promotion of women is for Christian Friege at all levels of the CEWE Group.

The CEWE board of trustees is composed of Dr. Rolf Hollander (chairman); Otto Korte (deputy chairman), Oldenburg; Dr. Kay Hafner, Essen; Catherine Le Thierry, Munich; Helmut Hartig, Oldenburg; and Matthew Peters, Hamburg.