The outgoing chairman of German dairy co-operative DMK, Otto Lattwesen, has died a day before he was due to formally step down from the company.

DMK said yesterday (2 January) Lattwesen died “as the result of a tragic accident” on 30 December – shortly before his 66th birthday and the planned transition to a successor. He leaves a widow and two children.

Lattwesen served as chairman since 1999, initially as chairman of German co-operative Nordmilch, which merged with Humana in 2010 to create DMK.

DMK announced in June Lattwesen and CEO Dr Josef Schwaiger were stepping down as part of a “generational change” at the firm. DMK said then Schwaiger would be succeeded by Ingo Mueller, the managing director of the group’s ingredients, agriculture and commodities operations, while a successor to Lattwesen would be chosen at a later date.

DMK said yesterday: “With Otto Lattwesen’s passing, Germany has lost a great visionary and a passionate representative of the cooperative system and of responsible, sustainable modern agriculture.

“Among other projects, Otto Lattwesen played a key role in the reorientation and internationalisation of the German dairy industry, which has grown in importance since the end of the quota system. His farsightedness regarding market-based developments was always accompanied by great concern for the welfare of farmers and members of the cooperative that he presided over in his role as chairman of the supervisory board.”