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Thyssenkrupp chairman steps down, piling turmoil on top ranks

Frankfurt

THYSSENKRUPP chairman Ulrich Lehner has resigned, increasing turmoil at the top of the German engineering conglomerate after the chief executive officer quit less than two weeks ago under pressure from disgruntled shareholders.

Mr Lehner decided to leave after realising he no longer had the confidence of major shareholders or the supervisory board, according to a statement on Monday.

His resignation adds to a leadership vacuum at Thyssenkrupp after CEO Heinrich Hiesinger unexpectedly quit on July 5. The company has faced anger from activist investors including Elliott Management Corp to transform the sprawling steel-to-submarines business into a higher-value industrial services company.

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At the recent meeting to sign off on a deal with Tata Steel Ltd, Mr Lehner clashed with fellow board member Ursula Gather, head of the company's largest shareholder, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach foundation, because she suggested the company mull other options and reconsider the terms of the steel joint venture, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last week, Mr Lehner gave an interview to Germany's Die Zeit newspaper in which he blasted investor attempts to "destabilise" the company with methods that resemble "psychological terror".

"My decision may contribute to creating the necessary awareness with all concerned parties that a break-up of the company and the related loss of many jobs are not options - neither in the interest of the founder, nor in the interest of the country," he said in a separate statement.

Mr Lehner will step down from the supervisory board on July 31. BLOOMBERG