Automotive supplier: ZF boss Wolf-Henning Scheider is moving to the Swiss private equity giant Partners Group
Zurich, Stuttgart ZF boss Wolf-Henning Scheider has a new job: The top manager, who is letting his contract with the Friedrichshafen-based automotive supplier expire, will join the private equity company Partners Group at the beginning of next year. The Swiss announced on Tuesday.
At Partners Group, Scheider will be responsible for what is by far the largest division: the business with private company investments. In the future, he will oversee more than $63 billion in assets under management. His predecessor David Layton was promoted to sole CEO last year and co-managed the private equity division on an interim basis.
The Partners Group is one of the leading private equity houses in Europe – and one of the few that can keep up with the big Anglo-Saxon competitors. The company, based in Zug, Switzerland, is a fund of funds provider that identifies successful private equity funds, but also makes its own direct investments. For years, the Partners Group was one of the most successful companies in the leading Swiss index SMI. Since November 2021, however, the share price has almost halved.
With Scheider’s appointment, Partners Group is strengthening its focus on direct equity investments. The aim is to invest in companies that benefit from the megatrends of digitization, automation and sustainability. The Swiss company is actively involved in the management of its portfolio companies and trims them for growth.
Partners Group CEO Layton says of his new private equity boss Scheider: “With three decades of senior management experience, Wolf is the ideal candidate to deepen the operational expertise that underpins our transformative investment efforts.”
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Scheider is quoted in the company’s announcement as saying: “After a long career in the industry in which I successfully led companies, I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute my experience to the broad company portfolio of Partners Group.”
The Partners Group holds a mix of direct investments – from the watch brand Breitling to the Indian logistics service provider Ecom Express to a chain of veterinary practices and veterinary clinics in the USA. The Swiss also hold some industrial holdings, such as Form Technologies, a group of manufacturers of precision components.
So far, genuine automotive suppliers are not among them. However, the Partners Group hired Scheider less because of his industry expertise and more because of his experience in company restructuring. The manager worked for Germany’s leading automotive suppliers for 35 years. Scheider accompanied companies at Bosch, Mahle and ZF up close in the transformation from the combustion engine to electromobility and the reorientation in digitalization.
>> Read also: Why so many automotive suppliers are looking for a new boss
Scheider initially did not disclose his specific plans when he announced his departure. The manager has always known how to surprise in recent years – now with a top job at one of the most valuable financial companies in Switzerland.
The fact that he is now turning his back on the automotive supply industry, when the entire industry is facing tough years and the risk of recession, is evidence of Scheider’s sense of timing. Even his move from the Bosch car division to the head of the much smaller car supplier Mahle came out of the blue in 2015.
But Scheider really wanted to be CEO, which he would not have been able to do at Bosch. At the beginning of 2018, the jump to ZF, four times the size of the competitor, followed just as surprisingly and quickly.
Meticulous numbers person
His predecessor Stefan Sommer had failed because the owners of the foundation company in particular did not want to take the billions in the takeover of the US brake manufacturer Wabco at the time. Two years later, Scheider was still able to pull off the strategically important acquisition. As a result, he is also familiar with transformative deals.
As a result, ZF has not only become a system provider, but also sees itself as the world’s largest supplier in the commercial vehicle business. Behind Bosch, the foundation group from Lake Constance has risen to number two in Germany after Continental shrunk through the spin-off of its drive division.
From the industry and with his socialization in the Bosch Group, Scheider is used to meticulously controlling with numbers. The CEOs of the companies in which Partners Group has or will have an interest can expect a very finicky shareholder. Scheider has a certain soft spot for controlling and the reputation of being able to keep an eye on other people’s fingers and to follow up later if they deviate from the target.
The Partners Group works with a more long-term orientation than other financial investors. This will certainly suit Scheider, who has spent his career in three foundation companies.
More: New boss for Germany’s second largest automotive supplier: Holger Klein takes over