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Bock To Head BASF In 2011

Succession: Finance chief gets nod to lead chemical industry icon

by Marc S. Reisch
June 7, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 23

In a succession move likely to keep BASF on a growth trajectory, the German firm has named Kurt Bock, 51, the next chairman of its board of executive directors. He will replace Jürgen Hambrecht, 64, after the company’s annual meeting next May.

Hambrecht
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Credit: BASF (Both)
Credit: BASF (Both)

Bock has served as chief financial officer of BASF, the world’s largest chemical firm, since 2003, the same year Hambrecht became chairman. During the executives’ joint tenure, BASF went on an acquisition spree, integrating specialty products into the firm’s vertically integrated but commodity-oriented mix.

In 2006, for instance, BASF purchased U.S. catalyst maker Engelhard for $5.6 billion in an uncharacteristic hostile takeover. That same year, BASF also bought Degussa’s construction chemical operations for $3.3 billion. More recently, the firm used its strong financial position during the economic slowdown to snatch ailing Swiss specialty chemical firm Ciba for $5.1 billion.

And Bock and Hambrecht might bring another acquisition to the BASF board before the year is out. Rumors continue to swirl that BASF is close to a deal to buy German surfactants and specialties maker Cognis from its private equity owners, Permira and Goldman Sachs, for more than $3.4 billion.

Bock, an economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Bonn, has spent 19 years at BASF, a period interrupted between 1992 and 1998, when he held a series of senior financial positions at German auto parts maker Robert Bosch. When Bock came back to the firm, it was as chief financial officer of BASF Corp., the company’s North American arm.

Lutz Grueten, an analyst in Frankfurt, Germany, with financial services firm Kepler Capital Markets, tells C&EN that he expects BASF to continue its growth strategy with Bock at the helm. The choice of Bock is in line with BASF’s past practice of naming a longtime board member to head the firm, he says. Bock does not share Hambrecht’s chemistry background, but Grueten says this is not a limiting factor. Hambrecht’s predecessor, Jürgen F. Strube, was a lawyer, he points out.

Bock, who is now CEO of BASF Corp., will maintain that position and continue to be responsible for BASF’s catalyst operations until he moves to the top job.

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