ThyssenKrupp supervisory board chief quits

ThyssenKrupp said Friday its supervisory board chief Gerhard Cromme, under fire for his handling of a series of scandals that has rocked the heavy industry giant, is stepping down.

Cromme, 70, "will step down as chairman of the supervisory board of ThyssenKrupp effective March 31," the group said in a statement.

A towering figure in German industry, Cromme also heads the supervisory of electrical engineering giant Siemens and sits on the supervisory board of media giant Axel Springer.

He has similarly held seats on the supervisory boards of insurer Allianz and energy supplier E.ON, as well as BNP Paribas and Suez in France

Cromme served in different leadership roles at steelmaker Krupp for 27 years before it merged with Thyssen. And he was the first chief executive of the combined entity from 1999 to 2001 before being appointed its supervisory board chief in 2001.

ThyssenKrupp has run up massive losses in the past two years as a result of its investment in additional production capacity in the United States and Brazil.

While another supervisory board member and former CEO, Ekkehard Schulz, was forced to quit in the wake of the losses, Cromme had so far managed to hold on to his seat thanks support of the firm's patriarch Berthold Beitz, 99, who heads the Krupp family foundation.

ThyssenKrupp has also become embroiled in a series of corruption allegations, including a price-fixing cartel, luxury trips laid on for journalists and alleged bribery in contracts in eastern Europe and China.

At an uncharacteristically stormy annual meeting in January, many shareholders called for Cromme to step down.

Cromme was quoted in the statement as saying: "I want to support a renewal regarding the supervisory board. Over the last 200 years the company has always successfully overcome several critical situations and I am convinced it will be the same this time. I will remain strongly attached to the company and its employees."

The surprise announcement of Cromme's resignation sent ThyssenKrupp shares soaring by 4.89 percent on the Frankfurt stock exchange on Friday.