Wella Bosses Twitchy at P&G Takeover, CEO Protests

19 March 2003

The senior management of German global haircare company Wella have made it crystal clear they are unhappy at the company’s acquisition by US titan Procter & Gamble [WAMN: 18-Mar-03]. They are uneasy about their future and angry at being sold down the river by the descendants of Wella’s founding Ströher family.

Says Wella chief executive Heiner Gürtler: “In our view this transaction was not a necessary step for Wella [to grow]. But the question of a sale was not in our hands and it is only fair that the descendants of the founding family decide to sell their [78%] stake."

P&G chief executive Alan G Lafley was all emollient solicitousness: “It is only understandable,” he said. “They are in a period of uncertainty. But we have made it very clear that we want to retain the critical top management.”

The $6.9 billion (€6.5bn; £4.41bn) purchase, which includes $1.2bn in debt, is the largest yet made by the Cincinnati-headquartered monolith, and the second US acquisition of a major German company in as many days [ProsiebenSat1. Media fell to Saban Capital Group, WAMN 18-Mar-03] but analysts expect European regulators to approve the Wella sale.

Wella’s management are not alone in their ire. The deal also came as an unwelcome shock to German consumer products group Henkel which only last week bought a 6.8% stake in the haircare company, a move widely seen as a prelude to a bid after holding informal talks with the Ströher dynasty last October. However, Henkel is thought unlikely to get into an auction with P&G.

Data sourced from: Financial Times and New York Times; additional content by WARC staff