Lufthansa eyes former Deutsche Telekom CEO for top job: reports

Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:22am EST
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote) has contacted the former chief executive of Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE: Quote) in its hunt for a new chief executive, German media reported, although sources said he was unlikely to topple the current favorite candidate.

Rene Obermann, former CEO of Deutsche Telekom, had taken up the top job at Dutch cable operator Ziggo ZIGGO.AS only this month, but has found himself back on the job market after the operator agreed a takeover offer from U.S. firm Liberty Global (LBTYA.O: Quote) on Monday.

Germany's largest airline has been looking for a new CEO since September, when it was announced that Christoph Franz would leave at the end of May 2014 to become chairman at Swiss pharmaceuticals company Roche ROG.VX.

Lufthansa chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber is interested in Obermann and the supervisory board has been in contact with the manager, Handelsblatt and Rheinische Post newspapers reported on Tuesday, citing company sources.

However, company sources told Reuters Obermann was an unlikely fit. Lufthansa also has a history of promoting internal candidates to the top job.

"The only qualification that Obermann has is his experience in managing a former state-owned group," one person familiar with the search said.

"Mayrhuber is casting the net as wide as possible so that he can say later that any potential suitable candidate was evaluated," the person added.

Carsten Spohr, head of Lufthansa's passenger airlines business, is regarded as the top candidate for the CEO job and analysts have said he would be best placed to continue the group's current cost-cutting programme.

Another person said the fact the process was taking so long was because Lufthansa wanted to give Spohr more time to restructure the passenger unit.   Continued...

Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann attends a news conference to present a joint initiative for encrypted email with United Internet in Berlin in this August 9, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Thomas Peter