Cordes takes over Mercedes

Known for his self-discipline, Schrempp confidant will become Hubbert's successor from October 1

After fixing DaimlerChrysler's heavy-truck operations, Eckhard Cordes will turn his attention to Mercedes-Benz cars.

Stuttgart. The mystery over who might succeed Juergen Hubbert is solved. Eckhard Cordes, 53, will head the Mercedes Car Group from October 1.

The graduate in business management is a close confidant of group boss Juergen Schrempp. In joined effort they were responsible for dissolving electricals company AEG, the selling of dutch aerospace group Fokker, the merger with Chrysler and the acquisition of a stake in in Mitsubishi Motors.

Cordes, who has three children -- his current second wife once was former group boss Edzard Reuter's assistant -- last successfully headed the DaimlerChrysler's commercial trucks sector.

Cordes is renowned within the group as being the man for difficult cases. If he does a good job at Mercedes, he -- and Chrysler boss Dieter Zetsche -- might have the best chance to succeed Schrempp as group chief executive. Schrempp's contract ends in 2008.

Cordes seemed surprised when the supervisory board's decision was delivered to him. "I did not expect this," he said with a smile.

But the supervisory board's vote only confirms the speculation that have been circulating within the group during the past few weeks. Since former Chrysler CEO Wolfgang Bernhard was suddenly given the boot only a few days before his planned assumption of office, Cordes was said to be Schrempp's preferred candidate as Hubbert's successor.

Cordes however kept a low profile. "My thoughts are focused on two things: my family and my current job," was his only comment on the subject.

Cordes prefers to control everything from the back seat, carefully but also determined. "Only those who crawl cannot fall over," is the his favorite proverb.

Some Americans think he looks like Robert Redford's little brother with his straight parting. Within the group, the North German, who was born in 1950 as the son of a leather merchant, is called "little Schrempp".

Cordes and Schrempp, who first met 18 years ago, when Cordes was chief accountant at Mercedes do Brasil, have fought many battles together. At the beginning of the 1990s they started working together very closely, first on dissolving AEG holding and then on selling the Dutch airplane manufacturer Fokker.

Cordes, who speaks fluent English, is renowned for being quick on the uptake and a strategic thinker. He is also known for his strict self-discipline. He became indispensable as ideas man for the merger with Chrysler. As head of mergers and acquisitions he negotiated the details for the cooperation with Chrysler in 1998.

Cordes was also always at his friend Schrempp's side ("Most of the time we have the same views on the world") during the secret talks between DaimlerChrysler and Nissan and later with Mitsubishi Motors.

He got into trouble only once during his career. He was sentenced to pay a five-figure amount in 1997 for revealing details regarding the group's financial results to journalists at the Geneva motor show the previous year -- weeks before the publication of the figures.