03 February 2019 People

CEO walks after Kolbus shareholders meeting

Kai Büntemeyer has left the company he has led in one form or another for 20 years. It indicates a new era for the German paper handling specialist.

Kai Büntemeyer has left Kolbus in a surprise move that caught everyone involved with the equipment manufacturer by surprise.

Büntemeyer joined the north German company initially as joint managing director and since 2003 as sole managing director for the one of the oldest engineering businesses in the region. The company can track its roots to 1775 and continues to operate its own foundry.

But by 1997, the family owned business was on its knees. Büntemeyer led a revival in its fortunes, introducing newer equipment to automate book binding for the larger book printers and trade binders that have been its core market.

Market consolidation squeezed the opportunity for two suppliers of large binding systems, leading Büntemeyer to merge the Kolbus bookbinding equipment with Muller Martini almost exactly a year ago. Kolbus would continue with box making and turning its casting and engineering skills to producing components for third party manufacturers.

However, the problems in print have persisted. Last week, Büntemeyer told staff at the plant in Rahden that short time working could be necessary. Despite the short term issues, the longer term prospects were good, he said. The acquisition of Autobox for corrugated box specialist in the UK positioned Kolbus to benefit in the growth of internet shopping; its own focus on solid boxes and the components operation could find customers in growth areas well away from print.

Within days of discussing prospects with the local press, Büntemeyer had departed.

A statement issued by the remaining shareholders expressed “their sincere thanks to Kai Büntemeyer for his remarkable merits and contribution during his employment with Kolbus”.

He is replaced by Wilfried Kröger who has been sales director alongside Büntemeyer and has been art of the Kolbus management team for more than 25 years. Following the Muller Martini deal he has been in charge of operations in the factory.

Among those taken by surprise was UK managing director Robert Flather. “Kai got Kolbus through some really difficult times, and led through the peaks and troughs,” he says.

Outside Kolbus, Büntemeyer has played leading roles in the German equivalent of Picon and has been involved with Drupa. The company has been quick to adopt digital workflows using open interfaces rather than linking everything through JDF. It published its own XML protocols to simplify the process of developing APIs to hook into Kolbus technology. “We believe that proprietary systems are not in the interests of the industry,” he said at the time.

Kröger is well respected inside Kolbus and by customers. “I look forward to working with him,” says Flather. “I have great respect for him.”

Gareth Ward

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Kolbus makes CEO change

Kolbus makes CEO change

Wilfried Kröger has taken over as CEO of Kolbus on the surprise departure of Kai Büntemeyer who left the business without warning on 31 January following a meeting of shareholders.

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