Corporate Transformation at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
When Stefan Oschmann became CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in 2016, the company had started its transformation from a mid-tier traditional German industry player to a global modern science and technology player. The restructuring and portfolio overhaul led by Oschmann's predecessor Karl-Ludwig Kley since 2007 had been approved by the Merck founding family in its 13th generation, which still owned the majority of the shares. Its intermediate results had been encouraging. After three large acquisitions (Serono, Millipore, and Sigma-Aldrich) that broadened its reach from healthcare and pharmaceuticals into life sciences and performance materials and an internal optimization program, revenues and profitability had doubled in the decade leading up to 2016. But more needed to be done. Preparing for the company's 350-year anniversary in 2018, Oschmann had kept up the pace of change, and announced further divestments and restructurings, sparking reactions from employees who expressed increasing exasperation about the new measures. In the fall of 2017 Oschmann and his Executive Board had to decide on the best strategic option for the company's consumer health division. Should they divest a division that lacked scale but that with its consumer brands in pain and cold remedies was viewed as a symbol of the company's origins? Was more change too much change in such a short time?