Werner Lüken is leaving the management of Lloyd Werft to chair the company's Supervisory Board as from 1 July

Some might find it hard to believe: After captaining Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven for 23 years, the company’s Managing Director Werner Lüken, 70, will be retiring from this position on 30 June 2010. However, Lüken is not leaving the long-established Bremerhaven company altogether: He will remain with the company as its new Chairman of the Supervisory Board, elected by both the Shareholders’ Meeting and the Supervisory Board at their joint meeting on 30 April. In his new role, Lüken will succeed Wolfgang van Betteray, who will stay on as an ordinary member of the company’s Supervisory Board. Going forward, Lloyd Werft will be steered by the two remaining Managing Directors: On 1 July 2010, Rüdiger Pallentin, 56, who has been a member of the Management Board since 2000, will become the new spokesman of the Board, succeeding Lüken. Carsten J. Haake, 43, has been Lloyd Werft’s Commercial Director for the last seven years.

Werner Lüken’s withdrawal from day-to-day operations comes as no surprise. Lloyd Werft’s three-strong senior management had already begun setting the course for the changing of the watch some time ago, as indicated by Lüken on occasion of this 70th birthday in November 2009. In fact, even with the senior management reducing its number to two, the company remains true to its course. Werner Lüken says: “As part of the adjustment of our staffing level to the market situation, we are also streamlining the management without losing continuity.” In a nutshell, this means: While, 20 years ago, Lloyd Werft employed some 1,000 staff, the staffing level now stand at around 400, as a result of several socially responsible personnel measures.

But despite these sometimes difficult “market adjustments, revenues have been soaring since 1987”. Lloyd Werft has gained an excellent reputation for ship repairs, complex ship conversions, particularly in the cruise liner segment, and highly demanding new constructions. The staffing level may have fallen, but the projects have become ever larger, more complex and more demanding. At the same time, the number of partner companies on the periphery of Lloyd Werft’s shipyard has grown, enabling Lloyd Werft to leverage new networking strategies as well as its much-vaunted logistics, flexibility and creativity for the further expansion of its core competencies, which have epitomised the company’s reputation for over 150 years.

Even two insolvencies in the wake of the collapse of the then parent company Bremer Vulkan could not seriously erode Lloyd Werft’s vitality. It was particularly during these critical and threatening situations that the management’s down-to-earth style, rooted in tradition, and the staff’s corporate spirit proved their mettle. Out of necessity, Lloyd Werft saw these crises, first and foremost, as opportunities. Werner Lüken says: “Today, we are building special heavy-cargo vessels as well as mega yachts. Accordingly, the requirements have become more complex and less standardised.”

Lüken has no concerns about the future of Lloyd Werft: He summarises his 23 years at the helm of the company as follows: “We have readied the company in good time for the new market situation and, above all, proven our high level of flexibility.” While the company has been opening up to new shareholders and outside capital for quite some time now, this process has been subject to clear-cut conditions. Future shareholders must agree to the continued existence of Lloyd Werft and the guaranteed continuation of its operations in Bremerhaven; these are non-negotiable conditions.

At present, the Italian state-owned group Fincantieri (21.05%), the federal state of Bremen (13.16%) and Lloyd Werft’s management hold all shares in the company. This restructuring of the company commenced as early as after the first insolvency in 1997, when the British investor Bridgepoint took over 70% of the shares in the interim and the Managing Directors acquired 30% as part of a management-buy-out. Bridgepoint disposed of its shareholding in 2003 and Fincantieri and the federal state of Bremen came on board, while Lloyd Werft’s management significantly increased its stake in the company.

No one has ever seriously believed that Werner Lüken would really abandon ship. Lloyd Werft has never been just a job for Lüken. In fact, it is more a passion and a will to accept challenges, without ever giving up. These virtues largely stem from his roots.

Lüken was born on 8 November 1939 in Bremerhaven. After finishing school, he completed an apprenticeship as a machine fitter at AG Weser Seebeckwerft in Bremerhaven, worked as a boilerman aboard fishing vessels and as an engineer’s assistant aboard merchant vessels, before entering the marine engineering college in Bremerhaven, where he attained his master’s certificates classes C5 and C6 for deep-sea navigation.

Lüken worked as a merchant seaman for ten years, lastly as a chief engineer. He then held positions as inspector and technical director of Union Kühlschiffahrt GmbH, became self-employed as a sworn expert for ship operation technology and was eventually headhunted by Lloyd Werft in 1985, when they were looking for a project manager for the now legendary general overhaul of the Queen Elizabeth 2. This role required sound engineering expertise, practical experience, the ability to retain an overview, resilience, creativity, strong communication skills as well as staying power. During this time, Lüken demonstrated, above all, special skills in the “building of bridges” between the interests of the customer, Lloyd Werft and the more than 2,000 employees of Lloyd Werft’s partner companies.

The rest, as they say, is history: The refit of the “QE2” was a resounding success for Lloyd Werft, which found great international acclaim, and the beginning of an unplanned new career for Lüken. In 1987, he was appointed Managing Director of Lloyd Werft. What’s more, three years ago the German Shipbuilding and Ocean Industries Association (Verband für Schiffbau und Meerestechnik; VSM) elected Lüken as its chairman. Werner Lüken does not deny that the move into the office of the Chairman of Lloyd Werft’s Supervisory Board on 1 July 2010 will be an excellent opportunity to hand over the helm while still being able to help steer the ship. Even after all these years, Lüken is just not suited to full-time retirement.

He will, however, enjoy the fact that he has more time on his hands for some of his favourite pastimes: travelling, his second home by the Wolfgangsee lake close to Salzburg in Austria, spending time with wife Christa, playing with his grandchildren and, of course, the occasional round of golf. After all, his enthusiasm for Lloyd Werft aside, Werner Lüken is also a family man, who maintains friendships with the same care and devotion as his close professional partnerships all around the globe. This is what Lüken calls a “change of priorities”. Business associates and staff alike have come to know and appreciate this special skill for more than 20 years, along with Lüken’s great sense of humour and diplomatic instinct, which was often needed. Lüken has come to stand for clear leadership, decisiveness, open-mindedness and his ability to interact with others on equal terms.

In terms of the corporate climate, not much will change at Lloyd Werft. The harmonious management style pursued by the senior management, which has always been among the company’s assets, will be continued by Rüdiger Pallentin and Carsten J. Haake, both of whom have been part of the executive management for many years. Rüdiger Pallentin, himself a shipbuilding engineer and employed with Lloyd Werft since 1979, will take over the helm from Lüken as spokesman of the Management Board. Carsten J. Haake, Lloyd Werft’s Commercial Director, holds degrees in business administration as well as finance and accounting and gained international experience before joining Lloyd Werft. A vigorous “number-cruncher”, Haake is, as are all his colleagues in the management, a native of Bremerhaven.

The changing of the watch on 1 July 2010 will therefore be anything but dramatic, with only the offices being swapped. This and the different distribution of responsibilities aside, almost everything else will remain the same.