* Had resisted earlier pressure to resign
* Leaves company on March 31
* Also stepping down from board of Krupp foundation
* Shares up 6.4 percent
(Adds background, shareholder comment)
By Maria Sheahan and Matthias Inverardi
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, March 8 ThyssenKrupp
Chairman Gerhard Cromme has resigned from the German
steelmaker's supervisory board after coming under fire for a
botched multibillion-euro project in the Americas.
The announcement on Friday was unexpected, coming after a
defiant Cromme had resisted shareholder pressure to step down in
January when he admitted at the company's annual meeting that he
had made mistakes that contributed to massive losses.
"The timing is surprising. He could have had it easier had
he made this move before the annual general meeting," said
Hans-Christoph Hirt, of Hermes Fund Managers, which had called
for change on the supervisory board at the AGM.
Shares in ThyssenKrupp were up 6.4 percent by the market
Cromme, who turned 70 last month, will leave his post on
March 31, after 12 years at the helm of the supervisory board.
He said in a statement that he was stepping down to support
"renewal" of the supervisory board. A spokesman for ThyssenKrupp
said that he could not yet give any indication of when a new
chairman would be appointed.
ThyssenKrupp has been dogged by scandal in recent years and
Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger axed half his management
board late last year, vowing to put an end to "old boys
Union Investment portfolio manager Ingo Speich said that
Hiesinger, who was brought in by Cromme two years ago, will need
the backing of the next chairman or his reforms could fail.
GOODBYE MR. STEEL
Cromme joined Krupp in 1986 and as chief executive oversaw
the steelmaker's mergers with Hoesch and Thyssen. As chairman of
the supervisory board he approved major strategic decisions
including investments in the Americas.
The Steel Americas project, comprising two steel mills in
Brazil and Alabama, cost much more than expected to set up and
has generated losses since. CEO Hiesinger is now trying to sell
German shareholder rights group DSW said that it welcomed
Cromme's resignation, though a spokesman added that it was also
"a little bit tragic that 'Mr. Steel' is leaving the bridge".
Despite the recent criticism of Cromme, it was thought
unlikely that he would be forced out because he had the backing
of Berthold Beitz, the 99-year-old patriarch of ThyssenKrupp's
The Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation headed
by Beitz holds 25.3 percent of the voting rights and has the
right to appoint three of the 20 members on the supervisory
But ThyssenKrupp said on Friday that Cromme is also stepping
down as vice chairman of the board of trustees and as a member
of the foundation, meaning that Beitz will have to find a new
crown prince as well as a new representative for ThyssenKrupp's
Cromme also chairs the supervisory board of engineering
conglomerate Siemens, which declined to comment on
his resignation at ThyssenKrupp.
($1 = 0.7644 euros)
(Additional reporting by Irene Preisinger; Editing by David