Ton Büchner has stepped down as CEO of AkzoNobel, the Dutch paint and chemicals giant, effectively immediately due to health reasons. Thierry Vanlancker, 52, who was head of AkzoNobel’s chemical business, has been appointed the new CEO.
Prior to joining AkzoNobel in 2016, Vanlancker, a chemical engineer and Belgian national, headed the fluoroproducts unit at Chemours, a DuPont spin-off. A successor to run AkzoNobel’s chemical business will be announced in due course, the firm says.
Büchner, 52, spent five years as AkzoNobel’s CEO, during which time he made it leaner and more profitable, the company says. Previously, he had been CEO of Swiss industrial equipment maker Sulzer.
“For me this was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make, but my focus must now be on my health,” Büchner says. His health problem was not specified. Within a year of becoming CEO in 2012 Büchner took several weeks off, citing “fatigue.”
The sudden change in leadership comes at a time when AkzoNobel is planning a major strategy shift in which it will exit the chemical business either through a sale or share flotation by the second half of 2018. Vanlancker had been poised to be the CEO of the chemicals business.
Büchner’s departure comes just weeks after he successfully resisted three attempts by U.S. coatings giant PPG Industries to take over AkzoNobel. PPG had criticized his leadership and that of AkzoNobel Chair Antony Burgmans as it strove to acquire the Dutch company.