Metro chairman backs CEO in dispute over Media-Saturn

BERLIN/DUESSELDORF Tue May 20, 2014 1:12pm EDT

Olaf Koch, CEO of Europe's fourth biggest retailer, answers questions during an interview with Reuters in Frankfurt March 24, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Olaf Koch, CEO of Europe's fourth biggest retailer, answers questions during an interview with Reuters in Frankfurt March 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) - The chairman of German retailer Metro AG (MEOG.DE) has defended Chief Executive Olaf Koch against criticism of his handling of a power struggle with the founder of the group's electronics chain Media-Saturn.

A long-running dispute for control of Media-Saturn, Europe's biggest electronics chain, has escalated in recent weeks between Metro, its majority owner, and the chain's founder Erich Kellerhals, who still owns a 22 percent stake.

"Mr Koch and I, as chairman of the board, cooperate extremely closely in all matters - including at Media-Saturn. The supervisory board is united behind Mr Koch," Chairman Franz Haniel told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview released ahead of publication on Wednesday.

"Mr Koch is measured by his overall performance as CEO of Metro and not just due to the current situation around Media-Saturn," added Haniel, who is also chairman of the board of Metro's biggest shareholder, investment group Haniel FHANI.UL.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said some board members had raised doubts over whether Koch's contract should be extended beyond next year due to his handling of the Media-Saturn dispute.

Media-Saturn, the world's second-biggest consumer electronics chain after Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N), is battling online competition and saw its sales fall 4 percent in its fiscal second quarter to 4.88 billion euros, prompting Metro to cut its full-year earnings forecast for the unit last week.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by Susan Thomas)