* Metro in long-running battle with Media-Saturn founder
* Metro CEO says "drama must now end"
* Reiterates offer to buy founder's stake in Media-Saturn
* Sales falling amid fierce online competition
DUESSELDORF, Germany, May 13 The CEO of
Germany's Metro wants to end a long-running battle
with the founder of Media-Saturn, the retailer's market-leading
European electronics chain, but will bypass him if they cannot
reach agreement, he was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Metro, the majority owner of the Media-Saturn chain that
accounts for a third of group earnings, has been wrangling for
years with its founder Erich Kellerhals, who still owns a 22
percent stake, delaying the chain's entry into e-commerce.
The dispute has escalated in recent weeks, with Kellerhals
calling Metro CEO Olaf Koch a "dictator". The row prompted the
resignation of Media-Saturn CEO Horst Norberg last week, with
Metro appointing Pieter Haas as his acting replacement.
Koch said he and Haas had met Kellerhals last Friday to try
to clear the air, proposing to discuss first with him future
important decisions before they are formally approved.
"We want to take the edge off the situation with this
approach," Koch told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an
interview. "This drama must now end."
However, Koch said he would not allow Kellerhals to stand in
the way of a new company strategy to accelerate growth of online
sales and if necessary would make use of an advisory council
that allows him to sidestep the founder's veto over decisions.
Koch added that Metro remained prepared to buy Kellerhals'
stake in Media-Saturn, although he noted that the founder had
always rejected that offer in the past.
Wolfgang Kirsch, head of Media-Saturn in its home market
Germany, told Reuters in an interview on Friday he hopes express
home delivery services will help offset pressure on margins and
boost online revenues.
Media-Saturn, the world's second-biggest consumer
electronics chain after Best Buy, saw sales slide 5.8
percent in Germany in its fiscal second quarter, prompting Metro
to cut its full-year earnings forecast for the unit last week.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Mark Potter)