Real estate financier: Marija Korsch: The consistent farewell to the chief supervisor of Aareal Bank

Marija Korsch

The long-time supervisory board boss sees her mission as fulfilled. In an internally distributed interview, she writes why.

Frankfurt This decision probably surprised even well-informed observers from the Wiesbaden real estate financier Aareal Bank: Just a few hours after the company recommended the takeover offer from an investor group led by Advent and Centerbridge to its shareholders, Marija Korsch, head of the supervisory board for many years, resigned from the supervisory board. With immediate effect.

Her provisional successor has already been determined in Hermann Wagner. The supervisory board will then propose a successor to the next ordinary general meeting. Korsch had deliberately chosen the time to retire, Wagner wrote in a letter to the employees. “Nevertheless, we very much regret that she has now initiated her withdrawal.”

Korsch was one of the few supervisory board directors of listed companies. According to the Fidar initiative, only eleven out of 186 German stock corporations are run by women. Korsch was only the third woman in 2013 – after Simone Bagel-Trah at Henkel and Susanne Klatten at SGL Carbon.

Korsch is now at a time when the future of Aareal Bank is more open than ever: Whether the friendly takeover by the investor group – to which Advent and Centerbridge still includes the investment arm of Goldman Sachs and the Liechtenstein asset manager LTG – is far from successful foregone conclusion.

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If the takeover fails, the dispute over the future of Aareal Bank between the management, which is against a split-up of the group, and the many heavily invested hedge funds that are in favor of exactly that, will flare up all the more. And CEO Jochen Klösges has only been in office for a few months.

Korsch: “The bank is well positioned in terms of personnel and strategy.”

Korsch herself nevertheless considers the time she has chosen to be favorable. In the past weeks and months she had thought a lot about what would be best for Aareal Bank, she said in an interview that was widespread within the bank. “I came to the conclusion that now is exactly the right time for me to give up my position,” says Korsch. “The bank is well positioned in terms of staff and strategy.”

From the point of view of the Croatian with an American passport, Aareal Bank is out of the woods: The corona crisis, which had hit the real estate bank specializing in the financing of hotels, offices and shopping centers, was an ultimate stress test that the institute “passed well”. With Jochen Klösges an “excellent successor” has been found for Hermann Merkens, who had left due to illness. And the offer of the investor group is a “turning point” with which the bank can win a long-term interested major shareholder.

It is nevertheless unlikely that the 73-year-old, whose supervisory board mandate would have expired next year, could have held onto her post: If the takeover by the group of investors called Atlantic BidCo succeeds, the new major shareholder should be entitled to important positions himself raise in the supervisory board.

If the takeover fails, Korsch would face major problems. She never got in touch with activist investors like Petrus Advisers or Teleios, who hold considerable blocks of shares. At the extraordinary general meeting on December 9th, Petrus Advisers wanted to replace Korsch and two other members of the supervisory board with their own candidates.

The annual general meeting in May showed that the other investors are not unwaveringly behind Korsch: At that time, the proposal for executive compensation failed because important shareholders such as Dekabank joined the resistance of the hedge funds.

Wolf Schumacher discontinued Korsch in 2015 without further ado

The confrontation with the activist investors was exhausting – for the board of directors, but also for Korsch himself. Korsch is considered to be an extremely assertive personality. For example, she dismissed the long-standing and self-confident Aareal Bank boss Wolf Schumacher in 2015. The reason for this should have been tensions between the two. She replaced Schumacher with Hermann Merkens, with whom the mathematician Korsch is likely to have shared a strong preference for numbers.

Before her time as head of the supervisory board, Korsch was a banker herself, most recently as a long-term partner at Bankhaus Metzler, where she built up the mergers and acquisitions business as head of investment banking. She once advised a trainee not only to read the prose in the annual reports, but also to take a close look at the figures. “The numbers have to talk to you,” Korsch is supposed to have said. “If they don’t, then you’ve come to the wrong place.” Korsch inherited this penchant for numbers from her mother, as well as her predilection for opera and classical music.

More: Financial investors Centerbridge and Advent bid for Aareal Bank – clear strategy change expected

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