LafargeHolcim Chief Executive Eric Olsen will leave the world's largest cement maker in July. As Ivor Bennett reports, the decision follows an investigation into allegations the company paid armed groups in Syria to keep a plant operating.
Being boss of the world's biggest cement maker is clearly not a job that's set in concrete. LafargeHolcim CEO Eric Olsen announcing he'll stand down in July. After allegations the French-Swiss firm paid armed groups in Syria to keep a plant there in operation. SOUNDBITE (English) KATHLEEN BROOKS, SENIOR MARKETS ANALYST, CITY INDEX, SAYING: "The company is being accused of financing terrorism essentially. But I suppose you've got to put it into context. They wanted to keep the plant open and essentially I suppose give jobs to Syrians in a very difficult situation." But cynics might see it differently. After all, war-torn Syria is a country in desperate need of rebuilding. Whatever the motive though - it's clear rules were broken. An internal investigation by the company found protection money had been paid, which it stressed was a breach of its policies. Adding there were significant errors of judgment. SOUNDBITE (English) KATHLEEN BROOKS, SENIOR MARKETS ANALYST, CITY INDEX, SAYING: "Really, should we put context around you know the situation that the company is operating in? Yes, you probably should. So it's probably more complex, it's not a black and white situation, it's very very grey. But because the rule book is black and white, the CEO has to go." The allegations first surfaced in March. Prompting a separate and still ongoing investigation by French authorities. Olsen was cleared of any wrongdoing and knowledge of the payments by the company, which said local management was to blame. But when there's a crack in the foundations, it's those at the top who are vulnerable.