‘Axel Miller’s abrupt dismissal is a messy move from D’Ieteren’
Last Monday, D’Ieteren announced in a press release that it “decided not to pursue its collaboration” with CEO Axel Miller. One week later, sources close to the company anonymously give their opinion on the abrupt dismissal and what might have been the causes.
“Today, the Board of Directors of D’Ieteren and Axel Miller note that their visions on the group’s future development and the leadership style no longer coincide and, for these reasons, have decided not to pursue their collaboration”, reads the press release published last Monday. It’s this precise above-mentioned sentence that caught the attention of several sources.
‘Not very elegant’
Why did D’Ieteren decide to challenge Axel Miller’s style of leadership rather than simply stick to a conventional end of collaboration statement? “It’s that sentence that hurts. It’s not very elegant”, declares an internal source.
“My hypothesis is that something must have happened between him and the family”, adds a retired employee, “I’m as surprised as you are about the speed at which this was done.” Indeed, while the previous CEO, Jean-Paul Bizer, was given two to three months notice, Mr Miller was sacked overnight.
Obviously, journalists at the Echo/De Tijd have tried to contact the group’s president, Nicolas D’Ieteren, and Axel Miller, but no comments were given. “If you’re asking me if I have an interest in talking to you, the answer is no”, was all the latter declared.
Although the people involved in this case are holding their tongue, ex-collaborators are reporting on the CEO’s management style. “In terms of style, there’s a big difference in the group’s view. He was more intrusive, less collaborative. He clearly has a more controlling and antagonistic view”, explains a source.
‘Different management style’
Axel Miller’s management style already gave him a name back when he headed Dexia and Petercam. The later, a family owned company, worked on a very conventional model. Miller came and shook things up, with an uncompromising and impatient style and the willingness to set up a modern executive committee.
Despite his strong character, his team appreciated him. “Miller was appreciated. He’s a man who helps everyone to grow”, tempers another anonymous source. “The problem is to be found higher up, at the council level. Frankly, such an abrupt dismissal for a listed company, it’s a bit of a mess.”
Difference of opinion
“I think it was a difficult choice for Nicolas D’Ieteren to dismiss Axel Miller whom he has known for a long time as a family advisor”, adds an internal source. The acquisitions were a problematic issue. Files of potential targets arrived by hundreds and when the management didn’t discard them, it was the family.
“Tensions existed for a long time. It has been 18 months since there have been discussions and deep disagreements over the purchase strategy”, explains a source.
Without a CEO, D’Ieteren is currently being managed by CFO, Arnaud Laviolette, and member of the executive committee, Francis Deprez. “I know Arnaud very well. He’s a good finance man but he hasn’t got the profile of a CEO. That said, if D’Ieteren becomes a pure holding, it’s a whole other story”, explains a source.
Others are suggesting a more important involvement from the family. Nicolas D’Ieteren, son of Roland, and Olivier Périer, the cousin, are listed as the two favourites. Their two families offices, Nayarit Participations and SPDG, control the D’Ieteren Group today.