Eric Olsen, chief executive officer of LafargeHolcim, has resigned effective July 15, noting how two years after the Lafarge Group and Holcim Ltd. merger, the business “has everything it needs to successfully transform the industry and build sustainably for our future world. I fully trust our teams to transform that ambition into reality.”
His resignation immediately followed disclosure of findings from an internal investigation of 2013-2014 actions to secure staff safety at a $680 million Syria greenfield operation that opened in 2010. Actions included payments by representatives of a pre-merger business, Lafarge Cement Syria, to militant group-connected intermediaries.
“Significant errors of judgment were made that contravened the acceptable code of conduct,” the LafargeHolcim Board concluded. “[A]lthough measures were instigated by local and regional management, selected members of group management were aware of circumstances indicating that violations of Lafarge’s established standards of business conduct had taken place.”
“My decision is driven by my conviction that it will contribute to addressing strong tensions that have recently arisen around the Syria case,” Olsen said. “While I was absolutely not involved in, nor even aware of, any wrongdoing I believe my departure will contribute to bringing back serenity to a company that has been exposed for months on this case.”
A search for Olsen’s successor will be launched immediately. In the meantime, Beat Hess, chairman of the board of directors, will oversee the transition period until the appointment of the new Group CEO. Hess will become interim CEO after July 15 and Roland Köhler, currently executive committee member with responsibility for Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Trading, will be appointed chief operating officer.