Klaus Gehrig, the top executive at Schwarz Group, which operates the Lidl and Kaufland retail businesses, has abruptly resigned from his position, with the 81-year-old owner of the business, Dieter Schwarz stepping in until a replacement can be found.
According to a statement issued by the retailer, Gehrig's resignation followed disagreement over a "very important matter" that could not be resolved.
Schwarz, who took control of the then-Lidl & Schwarz KG business in 1977, thanked the outgoing Gehrig for the "great development work" carried out over the past number of years.
Building An Empire
Gehrig has been cited by many as the architect of the Lidl and Kaufland empires that we know today, with Schwarz Group now having a retail presence in 33 countries around the world, with turnover of €113 billion.
While Schwarz has stepped in as top executive for the time being, Gehrig's designated successor, Gerd Chrzanowski, is expected to assume the role shortly.
There has been some speculation over the reasons for Gehrig's departure, with media outlet Tagesschau suggesting that the issue involved the hiring of more women for top positions at the group, noting the recent departure of Melanie Köhler, a promising up and coming executive, in recent weeks.
Elsewhere, Manager Magazin suggested that Gehrig was seeking to block Chrzanowski's promotion within the business, prompting the former's departure.
In April, Lidl announced the appointment of a new chief executive to its growing US business, with former Lidl Poland president Michal Lagunionek taking the reins – the fourth individual to do so since the retailer first made inroads into the States in 2013.
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