* Peter Terium to take top job on July 1, 2012
* First major appearance at press conference on March 6
* Will replace Juergen Grossmann, nicknamed “nuclear Rambo”
* Has already started exerting influence behind the scenes
* Has to lead co through major transformation
By Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff
FRANKFURT, March 5 (Reuters) - RWE AG’s pragmatic, hybrid-car driving new leader Peter Terium faces a major challenge as he tries to reposition a company that was defined for years by its outgoing chief and his “nuclear Rambo” approach.
Terium may bring less charisma to the top job of Germany’s No.2 utility than Juergen Grossmann, whom he is scheduled to replace as CEO on July 1, 2012 and whose pro-nuclear power stance earned him the tough guy nickname.
But the 48-year-old Dutchman looks to have the right credentials to lead the power group and is expected to move quickly to prepare it for a future which is non-nuclear, at least in its home market.
It promises to be one of the most important transformations in RWE’s 114-year history.
Terium will make his first major public appearance on Tuesday, March 6, when RWE presents its annual results for 2011 -- the year Germany decided to pull out of nuclear power for good in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.
Outgoing CEO Grossmann is more than 2 metres tall and has never shied away from the limelight or from polarising debates. Terium, by contrast, is round-faced and soft-spoken.
Even months after his appointment was announced, he is still an enigma to many, even inside the company.
Behind the scenes, however, he has already begun exerting his influence, with plans to extract an additional 1 billion euros in savings in 2013 and 2014.
His biggest challenge will be forging ahead with RWE’s 11 billion euro disposal programme, a key step in the debt-laden company’s transformation.
The question of where he will take the company beyond the cost cutting and disposals may not be answered for some time yet. Investment in new plant will be costly and RWE is, with domestic rival EO.N AG, looking at building nuclear capacity in Britain, where policy continues to include atomic power as a viable source of electricity.
Some analysts however believe he is well placed to deal with such issues.
“He makes a good impression, he gets to the point, (is) very competent and familiar with the issues,” analyst Bernhard Jeggle at banking group LBBW said.
“He is someone who can spread a spirit of optimism and seems to have made it off the starting block faster than some had feared.”
Terium joined RWE in 2003 after holding positions at the Dutch Finance Ministry, consultancy KPMG and German packaging company Schmalbach-Lubeca AG. In 2009 he engineered RWE’s 8.2 billion euro ($10.9 billion) takeover of Dutch peer Essent, subsequently becoming Essent’s CEO.
Only in August was he appointed to RWE’s management board.
Trained as an accountant and tax auditor, Terium has a more pragmatic approach to the nuclear debate than Grossmann, acknowledging Germany’s plan to exit nuclear power by 2022 is final and declaring RWE wants to be part of the solution.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stance has hit RWE hard, as nuclear accounts for 18 percent of the company’s own power production.
Terium will have to work hard to change RWE’s image as a pro-nuclear company, which was burned into the public mind when bodyguards protected Grossmann from anti-nuclear protesters at last year’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
Spreading the post-nuclear image may come easier to Terium, who as well as driving a hybrid car is a vegetarian, enjoys jogging and yoga, and has said he does not want to miss out on time with his family when he takes the top job.
What’s more, some say he has the management credentials to take RWE forward.
“He ... can win over others. In addition, he is very close to the market when it comes to the operating business and is keen on tackling new projects,” said analyst Peter Wirtz at banking group WestLB. “I find him very convincing.” ($1 = 0.7501 euros) (Editing by David Holmes)