Guido Kerkhoff has been named as the interim chief executive officer (CEO) at Thyssenkrupp, the German steel giant confirmed on Friday.
The unanimous decision by the supervisory board was made in response to the abrupt resignation of Heinrich Hiesinger from his CEO post last week.
Kerkhoff previously served as the chief financial officer (CFO) on the company's management board.
"Thyssenkrupp needs stability and continuity above all else in order to continue along its current path of transformation," a statement by supervisory board chairman Ulrich Lehner read.
Hiesinger's unexpected resignation was announced after he finalized a controversial and hard-won merger of Thyssenkrupp's steel unit with the European subsidiary of Indian rival Tata Steel. He said he had made a "conscious decision" to leave the company and enable the supervisory board to have a "fundamental discussion about the future of Thyssenkrupp".
During his seven-year tenure, Hiesinger repeatedly clashed with Thyssenkrupp's second largest shareholder Cevian. The Swedish investment fund repeatedly accused the CEO of poor financial performance and mismanagement, calling for a radical break-up of the company.
In response to such criticism, Hiesinger highlighted what he saw as the advantages of an integrated corporation, describing the Thyssenkrupp-Tata fusion as the starting point for more far-reaching reforms at the industrial behemoth. "We are leading Thyssenkrupp as an integrated company because this results in measurable advantages," he told investors at the company's most recent annual general meeting (AGM).
German media reported after Hiesinger's departure that he had felt inadequately supported in his strategic vision for the conglomerate by the Krupp foundation, Thyssenkrupp's single largest shareholder.
The Krupp foundation told press that the key priority now was to successfully implement the Thyssenkrupp-Tata merger and ensure the sustainable development of other business units. The foundation noted that it remained committed to the will of Alfried Krupp to preserve the unity of the company he founded as well as possible.
The Krupp foundation said it had full confidence in Kerkhoff's ability to lead the company for the time being. The Thyssenkrupp supervisory board has announced it will launch a "structured process" to find a suitable permanent replacement for Hiesinger.