Effective February 1, 2012 Bernard Fontana, presently CEO of Aperam, a company recently spun-off from ArcelorMittal, is to assume the position of CEO of Holcim Ltd. He is replacing departing CEO Markus Akermann, who is stepping down at the end of January 2012.
The choice of Bernard Fontana, a 50-year-old French engineer, ended a process that began last year to find a successor for Mr Akermann, who has led Holcim since 2002 and will retire at the end of January.
"We have succeeded in finding a successor with a winning personality who has a true track record in corporate leadership as well as in central group functions such as HR and sustainable development." Markus Akermann will retain his seat on the Board of Directors until his current term of office ends in 2013,” Holcim chairman Rolf Soiron said.
While the appointment of a non-internal candidate who has not worked in the cement industry has come as a surprise to some investors, Holcim said that Mr Fontana was appointed with continuity in mind and that there would be no change to the company’s strategy.
"This has not been done with any thoughts of discontinuity. The basis is that there is continuity," Mr Soiron said during a conference call. "You should not expect any significant changes in our strategy."
Mr Soiron noted: "He is from outside the cement industry, but you should not overlook the important similarities between the steel and the cement industry.”
“They very much have common features. Cement and steel are extremely asset and capital intensive, and you are always investing for the long-term," he added.
Mr Fontana holds a degree in engineering from the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Techniques Avancées in Paris. His career began with Groupe SNPE in France. In 1998, he was appointed head of US operations, and from 2001 to 2004 was a member of the Executive Committee. Shortly after joining ArcelorMittal in 2004, he was given responsibility for HR, IT and business development at Flat Carbon. From 2006 to 2007 he was a member of the Management Committee of ArcelorMittal with responsibility for the Automotive Worldwide Business Unit. In his capacity as Group Management Committee member, he was subsequently responsible for HR and the global alliance with Nippon Steel.
Since 2010 Mr Fontana has been CEO of Aperam, a Luxembourg-domiciled listed corporate group that was spun off from ArcelorMittal in the autumn of 2010. This newly formed corporation produces high-grade steel in Europe and overseas. Aperam generates sales of approximately US$6.5bn and has a workforce of around 10,000 employees.