Hochdorf CEO Thomas Eisenring has quit his role for “family reasons” amid dissatisfaction from a leading investor with the performance of the infant-formula maker.

In a statement issued today (11 March), Hochdorf said Eisenring, who had been at the helm for six years, had “decided to step down and seek a change of career for family reasons”.

Dr Peter Pfeilschifter, the managing director of Hochdorf’s dairy-ingredients business, will take on the role of company CEO on an interim basis.

On Friday, ZMP Invest, the investment arm of Swiss milk co-op ZMP, which is among Hochdorf’s largest investors, hit out at the company’s recent performance. It proposed three new board directors, including Jörg Riboni, the outgoing CFO of dairy group Emmi. ZMP Invest is the majority shareholder in Emmi, home to the Caffe Latte and Onken brands.

However, Eisenring said this afternoon his departure was due to outside interests. “I have become very interested in Africa through my family and would like to get more involved with this fascinating continent,” Eisenring, who will step down tomorrow, said. As the architect of the forward integration strategy, it is difficult for me to leave Hochdorf. Nevertheless, in this challenging economic environment and current phase of change, I am sure that Hochdorf will benefit from a fresh impetus.”

Dr Daniel Suter, Hochdorf’s chairman, thanked Eisenring for his “hard work and enormous commitment”. He added: “Thomas Eisenring has shaped the strategy of the Hochdorf Group, driven forward integration and positioned the group very well internationally. The future Hochdorf CEO must have integration skills as well as sound international marketing and sales experience in line with our forward strategy.”

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By GlobalData

In 2018, Hochdorf issued two profit warnings amid weaker-than-expected business at African infant-formula producer Pharmalys Laboratories and lower milk fat and butter prices in Europe.

On Friday, ZMP Invest pointed to the two revisions as it called for new directors on the Hochdorf board.

“In the 2018 financial year, Hochdorf had to publish two profit warnings, and the company’s share price has slumped by more than 50% in the last 12 months,” ZMP Invest said. “The expensive acquisitions of recent years do not bring the promised results, the development of sales and profitability in no way meets expectations and there is no improvement in sight.

“After several overall unsatisfactory discussions with the board, ZMP Invest, with 14.5% of [Hochdorf] shares … decided to take responsibility for themselves and to renew the board of directors.”

Hochdorf’s AGM is on 12 April. As well as Roboni, ZMP Invest is putting forward Bernhard Merkl, the former CEO of packaging group Netstal, for election as Hochdorf chairman. It is also proposing Markus Bühlmann, the vice president of the ZMP co-op, joins the Hochdorf board.

just-food had contacted Hochdorf to comment on ZMP Invest’s statement but had not received a response at the time of writing.