Former CEO of LH Cargo to Head Lufthansa

And the winner of a long and – some critics say – exhausting search for a new Lufthansa CEO is ... Carsten Spohr.

Dirk Steiger comments the outcome of the decision announced by the Supervisory Board’s Chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber last Friday.

Lufthansa's next CEO - Carsten Spohr / source: LH
Lufthansa's next CEO - Carsten Spohr / source: LH

The dice have been cast: effective May 1st, Carsten Spohr will become the new CEO of the German National Carrier. This is the result of an almost endless search for suitable candidates to run the German crane. Strangely enough, since Spohr was the favourite for succeeding Franz from the very start. Franz, who privately lives in Switzerland, had quit LH last September to become Chairman of the Board at Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche as of next May. 

Prior before becoming a member of the Executive Board of the airline group in 2011, Carsten Spohr was heading up Lufthansa Cargo. In his present function he oversees the passenger operation of Lufthansa and Germanwings, the group’s largest business unit with approx. €17bn in annual revenue.

Even though many of us expected that Carsten Spohr will become the “natural successor” to Christoph Franz, who announced his decision back in September last year, the Supervisory Board was obviously looking for other candidates as well. Wild speculations in the press brought up names from Stephan Gemkow (ex CFO of LCAG, now with Haniel); Walter Gehl (LSG Skychefs), Karl Garnardt (CEO LCAG) or Rene Obermann, the recent CEO of Deutsche Telekom. Finally Spohr made it and we think that this was the best decision that the Supervisory Board could have made.


After two decades with LH, Spohr knows the company inside out and has the so-called “Stallgeruch” (stable smell) that is needed to weather future storms and to stand up to the growing competition.  
Spohr also still has his pilot license (A320) and therefore should know best of how to solve the ongoing conflict with the company’s self-assured cockpit personnel in order to avoid an expensive strike later this spring. But Spohr must further dig hard to keep the airline on course. Both, analyst and investor groups complain that there are still too many employees that are favouring the internal “Wohlfühlfaktor” (high comfort factor) rather than seeing the reality of the global dogfight the company is in. Spohr however seems to have the necessary credibility and poise to convince internal and external parties simultaneously. He knows what he’s talking about, has an internal network of people he can rely on and finally enjoys when his airline sets new benchmarks, such as the introduction of the new 747-8.

His future will certainly be tough but overall he’s a self-confident manager and a convincing seller of innovations like the famous Steve Jobs of Apple that could make his workforce proud about of what they’re doing and to (hopefully) accept the inevitable changes needed to bring Lufthansa back to world class. The financial community obviously shares our opinion about his nomination, reflected by the stock market where Lufthansa’s shares shot up immediately after the airline controllers announced their decision in favour of Spohr.
Dirk Steiger