A. P. Møller – Mærsk announced the retirement of its CEO of nearly seven years and one of the leading voices in the future of container shipping Soren Skou to be succeeded by Vincent Clerc, the current CEO of the company’s Ocean & Logistic business. The change over announced today at a press event in Denmark happens in just three weeks at the end of 2022 and marks the second major change in the management of the group in 2022.
“Soren has contributed to our group’s development over almost forty years, of which eleven years as CEO for Maersk Tankers, four years as CEO for Maersk Line, and close to seven years as CEO for Maersk,” said Robert Uggla, who rose to the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors early in 2022. “During his tenure as CEO of Maersk, Soren has been instrumental in redefining Maersk into a customer-centric end-to-end logistics provider with a global leadership position in sustainable transportation solutions.”
Rising to the leadership position in 2016, Skou led a transformation of Maersk. Having become a diverse conglomerate his role was to refocus the operations selling off non-core businesses and focusing on the container operations while also growing into a logistics company with broad holdings in port terminals and the logistics of moving shipments for customers. The transition was topped off by a series of high-profile acquisitions of logistics companies.
Unlike competitors including MSC, Maersk made the strategic decision to steady operations in the core shipping business foregoing the rush to build and acquire new capacity and the launch of the latest generation of 24,000 TEU ultra-large containerships. At the beginning of 2022, Maersk after many years ceded the position of the largest carrier to MSC while Skou said they believed the shipping company was strong at its current size.
Maersk, however, has moved aggressively in the transition to the next generation of environmentally friendly vessels. In addition to its orders for methanol-ready containerships, the company has taken a leadership role in developing the global supply network for green methanol.
“For almost seven years I have worked together with my team to change the business model, the culture, the digital backbone, and the results to make Maersk a profitable growth company again,” said Skou (age 58) telling the audience the time was right for Maersk to make the transition. Last year, Maersk recorded the largest profit in its history and the largest of any Danish company.
The Swiss-born Clerc (age 50) has worked for Maersk Line since 1998 and has held various roles in North America and Copenhagen. He became Chief Commercial Officer at Maersk Line in December 2015, later joining the executive board and expanding his role to Chief Commercial Officer of A.P. Moller – Maersk. He was appointed CEO of Ocean & Logistics, which remains the largest part of the company’s business, in December 2019.
While assuming the leadership of a financially strong company, Clerc takes the reigns at a time when volumes are declining and freight rates have been failing. Noting the challenges, Uggla said, “The strong tail winds that benefited the supply chain industries during the pandemic are coming to an end. With an increasingly challenging outlook, the board believes Vincent holds the right experience and capabilities as CEO to pursue and oversee Maersk’s strategic and organizational development in the years to come.”
Clerc noted that “on the heels of a pandemic, and now with the war in Ukraine and an energy crisis upon us, there are many tough challenges ahead. Companies are rethinking their supply chains in this new environment, they are looking for more stability, and more support on their decarbonization journey.”
Speaking at the event announcing the transition, Clerc told the audience his focus would be on controlling costs after the period of rapid expansion. While saying he plans to stay the course on the strategy, he also highlighted the importance of digitalization and decarbonization.
Uggla, the great-grandson of the company founder, also marked a key transition when he became Chairman of the Board earlier in 2022. At age 44, he represents the next generation of the management of the company. He had joined the board around the same time Skou rose to become CEO.