CEO, Werner Wenning, celebrates 40 years with Bayer
Leverkusen. "The man who is reinventing Bayer" – this was how the business and financial newspaper Euro am Sonntag recently described the Chairman of the Bayer Management Board, Werner Wenning, in a cover story. The paper outlined in detail how the head of Bayer is whipping the traditional corporation into shape for future technologies. Born and raised in Opladen (Germany), Wenning embarked on his career with the company on 1 April 1966. He took on responsibility early, climbed high up the career ladder, successfully led the largest corporate restructuring effort in the history of the Group and is currently planning to further strengthen it with the planned acquisition of Schering.
Wenning began training as a commercial assistant at Bayer 40 years ago, when he was 19 years old. He has been at the helm of the company for four years now. Wenning is a "Bayer man through and through," according to the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. The Financial Times Deutschland dubbed him "unstoppable," while the ARD program Börse im Ersten referred to the head of Bayer as a "shooting star among managers" in early 2004.
Great challenges mastered
April 2002. Special tasks lay in store for the freshly appointed Chairman of the Management Board. By June, the Group had already made the largest acquisition in its history with the purchase of Aventis CropScience, advancing Bayer CropScience to the forefront of the industry.
The "down-to-earth reformer", as the Handelsblatt termed the internationally experienced manager, then proceeded to initiate the biggest reorganisation in Bayer’s history. The company adopted a new operating structure with sub-groups and service companies in June 2002. The goal was to use innovation and growth to create value. "Innovation and growth are the keys to success in a globalised world", says Wenning.
Of equal importance to Wenning is transparency – for the financial markets, customers, partners and employees. He is committed to Germany as a business location, without losing sight of the growth opportunities in Asia. In November 2003 he laid the foundation stone for a new polycarbonate plant in Caojing near Shanghai. "China has a very high priority in our strategy", observes the Chairman of the Management Board.
Wenning continued steadily guiding the inventor company down the path of reorganisation. Parts of the polymer business and chemical division were hived off and successfully launched on the stock market in early 2005 under the name Lanxess. Wenning’s forecast proved correct – the bold step was also rewarded by the financial markets.
In June 2004 the 1.9m (6'2") head of the Group provided the employees with a sense of purpose through a new mission statement expressed in the slogan "Bayer: Science For A Better Life." His message: the course for the future has been set. The Group thus concluded a phase of far-reaching changes. In the future, it would concentrate on the fields of health, nutrition and high-tech materials. "We want to benefit people with our products and services as well as contributing to improving the quality of life", says Wenning. It was this goal which was also the driving force behind the acquisition of the consumer health business from Roche, since which Bayer has numbered among the world’s largest providers of non-prescription drugs.
Overall the Bayer ship is on track for success, “2005 was one of the best years in our company’s history”, said Wenning at the Spring Financial News Conference.
Wenning attaches great value to the company’s social responsibility. For example, he and Professor Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), signed a cooperation agreement in Leverkusen in June 2004. Bayer was the first industrial concern to become a UNEP partner in the field of youth and the environment. The Group also supports more than 300 social projects around the globe. "This makes us a worldwide leader in the field", notes the Chairman of the Management Board.
From apprentice to head of the Group
Wenning already had great challenges to face in his youth. His father died when was 14 years old, leaving him with no choice but to go out to work at an early age. "I always made sure of having a sufficient cash flow, even back then", he says.
After training at Bayer, Wenning completed a trainee program in finance and accounting and spent a year working in Group Auditing until his boss sent him to the Peruvian capital of Lima. There the newlywed Wenning successfully set up the Finance and Accounting department for the newly founded Bayer Industrial SA. His motto then and now is: "You should always devote your full effort to the job currently assigned to you – everything else will follow automatically."
He learned how to lead employees early on. "One must have a lot more confidence in them. Many will seize the opportunity", he says. Wenning’s daughters Sandra and Simona were born in Peru. Afterwards the family returned to Leverkusen. Wenning spent three years working in Auditing and traveling the world to audit Bayer companies.
In 1978 he became the Managing Director of Bayer Industrial SA in Lima, until terrorists drove out the employees and blew up the plant in 1983. The event was a dramatic one, but fortunately no one was injured and Wenning had arranged for business interruption insurance. In 1983 he returned to Leverkusen and held managing positions in the health and plastics divisions. He was able to gather valuable experience at the Treuhandanstalt privatisation agency where Bayer sent him as a manager in 1991 before fulfilling a personal dream one year later when he was appointed Senior Bayer Representative in Spain.
Returning home in 1996, he was made head of Corporate Planning and Controlling and became CFO in 1997. He maintains contacts with the financial world and played a key role in the IPO in the USA. He has been President of the German chemical industry association (VCI) since September 2005.
Wenning jogs and plays golf to keep himself in good shape for his work. He also appreciates cultural activities, loves classical music and has a special affinity with contemporary Spanish painting.