On the eve of his scheduled return to work, AkzoNobel CEO Ton Büchner has extended his medical leave for several more months, the company has announced.
In a statement Wednesday (Oct. 17), the company also suggested that Büchner’s condition was considerably more serious than the “temporary fatigue” from having “taken on too much work” announced earlier.
“AkzoNobel's Supervisory Board this week received an update on the progress of CEO Ton Büchner's recovery,” the statement said. “Following a Supervisory Board meeting today, the company reported that medical specialists expect the CEO to fully recover and that it is anticipated that he will return to work sometime around year-end.”
|AkzoNobel CEO Ton Büchner (left) is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness. CFO Keith Nichols (right) has temporarily assumed Büchner’s duties.|
Büchner, 47, a Dutch national, took over the world’s largest paint and coatings company in April, succeeding long-time CEO Hans Wijers. His appointment had been announced a year earlier.
Büchner is also chairman of the Board of Management and the Executive Committee. A civil engineer by training, he came to AkzoNobel from Sulzer Corp., where he had been CEO and president since 2007.
‘Too Much Work’
On Sept. 18, AkzoNobel announced that Büchner had stepped aside due to “fatigue,” but would return to work “in the first half of October.”
A company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that Büchner had “taken on too much work.”
An investor meeting scheduled for Oct. 22 was postponed indefinitely.
The company’s third-quarter results are due to be published Thursday (Oct. 18). Antony Burgmans, member of the Supervisory Board, will field the post-earnings-release conference call, AkzoNobel said.
On Wednesday, Karel Vuursteen, chairman of the Supervisory Board, said that Büchner was being treated for an undisclosed illness.
“We are pleased to report that the current treatment is effective and progress is being made,” said Vuursteen. “However, it is important that the full cycle of treatment is completed and a premature commencement of activities is avoided.”
Vuursteen added: “We are glad that Ton is progressing, and we look forward to welcoming him back to the company later this year. In the meantime, we have appropriate governance in place.”
The company said that its “temporary arrangements to accommodate Ton's absence” would remain.
Chief Financial Officer Keith Nichols “will continue to be the first point of contact and coordinator for the Executive Committee,” while Burgmans “will remain on hand to offer advice and support to Keith and the Executive Committee.”
Although the company called Wednesday’s update “Good news!” on its Facebook page, Büchner’s absence has not been good for the already-struggling coatings and specialty chemicals maker, the Associated Press reported.
“Shares in AkzoNobel have sold off sharply the past month as investors worried that Büchner's problems reflected trouble in the business, or that the company was suffering from a lack of strategic direction during his absence,” the AP said.
The parent company of International Paint, Devoe, Dulux, Glidden, and dozens of other brands of paints, coatings and chemicals has not been performing well for a year, although the second quarter was slightly better than expected, squeezing out single-digit revenue increases largely through price hikes.
AkzoNobel’s stock took its biggest tumble in a year after Büchner’s leave was announced, according to Bloomberg.