Departed Danisco CEO: “I am proud of my legacy”
After all, the just-resigned chief executive officer of Danisco told this publication he was off on a deserved European vacation after five years in charge of the Scandinavian ingredients giant that had seen its profitability and stature grow to the point where DuPont was willing to shell out for €4.44bn for it last month.
Proud of his time at the company that had ushered in a period of “growth and enhanced profitability” ; proud of the end-of-DuPont deal result for Danisco shareholders whose initial resistance forced DuPont to up its offer – it is nonetheless a series of events that has prompted his departure and rather sudden summer European sojourn.
But Knutzen is philosophical about his decision to resign, along with chief financial officer Soren Bjerre-Nielsen, and there had been little acrimony. It is often the way – the company doing the acquiring brings in its own management ideas-people-structure – and soon enough it became apparent it was better to go than stay.
“It was sad, but rational”
Whether he was pushed or jumped is a moot point.
“We had some discussions with the new management and it became clear that there was not a job that fits me and DuPont,” he reflected. “So we reached the conclusion that we will separate. There was no fuss about it, it was done in a professional way and it was the right thing to do for all parties concerned. It was sad, but rational.”
“We have been an acquiring company ourselves in the past and so I know first-hand how things work. But I am proud of my legacy.”
His and Bjerre-Nielsen’s resignations took effect June 17, the same day the sweeteners, enzymes, phytochemicals and probiotics player was delisted from the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.
Knutsen said the fact Danisco, with annual sales of about €1.9bn, was completely complementary to DuPont made leaving easier.
“There is no major overlap – it is not a new leg on the side so to speak.”
Knutzen wouldn’t speculate on how the new management structure would look, and DuPont has revealed little, but analyst chatter indicates DuPont won’t directly replace them, rather integrate Danisco’s various activities with DuPont’s on a regional basis.
The deal, his legacy
Knutzen said the deal itself had been hard fought for but satisfactory.
“The Board obtained the best possible price and the best possible owner,” he said. “The shareholders were professional and rational and we were very happy with the deal.”
Whilst cruising through Europe on holiday, he will no doubt reflect on his legacy.
“The team and I created growth and enhanced profitability – we took the hard decisions to focus on nutrition solutions to make the company what it is today. We expanded internationally and evolved the company’s culture to be more outward looking. I am proud of that and share it with the team I had around me. And now DuPont will drive them forward again.”