Chemical industry: Bayer’s previous Chief Agriculture Officer, Liam Condon, becomes CEO of Johnson Matthey

Liam Condon

The long-time Bayer manager has a new job in Great Britain.

(Photo: Reuters)

Düsseldorf On Tuesday of this week he announced his resignation at Bayer at the end of the year, and the new job has now been confirmed: Liam Condon, Bayer’s long-standing board member and head of the agricultural business, will head the British company Johnson Matthey. He will take up the CEO position there in March 2022.

Johnson Matthey is a leading chemical and materials specialist with a turnover of 4.8 billion euros most recently. The majority is accounted for by catalytic converters, which are used to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from trucks, ships and power plants, and special chemical additives.

The promising future business for Johnson Matthey is the manufacture of material for lithium-ion batteries, such as those used in electric cars. Among other things, the British manufacture cathode and anode materials based on lithium at the German site in Moosburg in Bavaria.

This means that Condon is taking over a company that is much smaller than Bayer Crop Science. The agricultural division of the Leverkusen-based group achieved sales of almost 19 billion euros in 2020. In return, he is moving to the very top – a path that may no longer be open to him at Bayer.

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For a long time, the native Irishman was traded as the successor to Bayer CEO Werner Baumann. As Chief Agriculture Officer, Condon was at the forefront of the acquisition and integration of the US seed company Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018 for around $ 63 billion. In previous years, he headed the medical business at Bayer and therefore has extensive experience in the group.

The management of Bayer’s agricultural business has been under great pressure right up until the end

The reasons for leaving Bayer are unclear. In business circles it is said that he was not pressured to take this step. However, the management of the agricultural business was under great pressure to the end because the operational performance did not meet the expectations of the financial market and also did not meet the plans of Bayer itself.

In addition, there is the heavy burden of the lost lawsuits in the USA over the weed killer glyphosate and the subsequent out-of-court settlement with the plaintiffs. This could cost Bayer up to $ 15 billion in the end. Condon is not directly responsible for this – as head of the agricultural division, however, he shares responsibility.

Bayer’s supervisory board chairman Nobert Winkeljohann has already initiated planning for Baumann’s successor, who will leave the group in April 2024. The only thing that is clear so far is that the supervisory boards will look at internal and external candidates.

Some larger fund companies and Bayer investors would like a new Bayer boss who did not decide to buy Monsanto in 2016, as it is called in financial circles. In addition to Baumann, only Condon, who has now resigned from this group, is on the current board.

Condon himself justifies his decision quite differently. In a letter to the Bayer workforce, he wrote: “Nobody should do the same job for more than ten years, and every manager must be able to make room at the right time.” After almost ten years at the helm of Crop Despite all the problems, he can go to science with his head held high: Bayer’s agricultural division grew strongly in the third quarter, and the prospects are good for the fourth quarter as well.

Internally, Condon’s withdrawal from Bayer is deeply regretted. This is also due to the personable and relaxed manner that the 53-year-old always displayed as a manager. He always provided very personal insights – for example, when he and Baumann spoke to the employees of the US group after the takeover agreement with Monsanto in autumn 2016.

After his Bayer career, Condon’s suitability as CEO is undisputed

Condon told of his childhood in Ireland, when he was often in cemeteries. His father made tombstones with his small business, and as a boy he often helped him with work during vacations and after school. Condon sticks to a piece of advice his father gave him there to this day: “Here you learn what is most important in life. You plan for the long term, but you should make the most of every day. After all, you never know. “

The long-time Bayer manager will now take this to heart at Johnson Matthey’s new employer. After his career with the Leverkusen-based group, Condon’s suitability as CEO is undisputed. He studied marketing and languages ​​in Dublin and Berlin and speaks English and German as well as French, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.

At Johnson Matthey, Condon meets an old friend who is likely to have lured him into the new position at the forefront: Patrick Thomas, who himself has spent many years at Bayer, is Chairman of the Matthey Board, comparable to a supervisory board chairman in Germany.

From 2012, Thomas and Condon were together on the Bayer Executive Committee for a number of years – Condon as the then Healthcare Head and Thomas as the head of the plastics division, from which today’s Covestro AG emerged after the spin-off in 2015. “Liam is a dynamic and value-driven leader with an impressive track record,” said Thomas on Thursday. Condon succeeds Robert MacLeod, who led the company for eight years.

More: The resignation of the Bayer agricultural director is a signal for renewal

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