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PGGM calls for top brass at GSW Immobilien to step down

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NETHERLANDS – The €133bn asset manager PGGM has demanded the resignations of the supervisory chairman and the new chief executive at the €3.3bn German property fund GSW Immobilien.

It said GSW's process in appointing chief executive Bernd Kottmann, who succeeded Thoman Zinnöcker in April, was "unacceptable" and at odds with proper governance.

The Dutch asset manager said it would submit its demand as a shareholder's proposal during GSW's annual general meeting on 18 June.

It will also ask fellow shareholders to support a motion of no confidence in GSW's chief executive.

PGGM claims Eckart John von Freyend, the company's supervisory chairman, failed to provide clarity during the appointment process and ignored repeated requests for additional information.

It also said it was also unhappy with the chief executive's job profile, as well as with the supervisory select committee's lack of independence.

PGGM even raised questions about the independence of the supervisory chairman himself.

According to the asset manager, both men were board members at the property company IVG Immobilien, which ran into "great difficulties" under their management in 2008.

Hans op 't Veld, PGGM's head of listed property, said: "We wanted the guarantee that the decision to appoint Kottmann was unaffected by the fact they knew each other."

PGGM said it would now like to see Berlin-based GSW initiate a new selection procedure for chief executive.

It added that, all candidates being of equal competence, it would prefer the appointment of an internal candidate, and wanted to see a new chief executive continue the company's strategy.

According to Op 't Veld, PGGM has an almost 3% stake in GSW, worth approximately €40m.

But GSW's Von Freyend said he would fight PGGM's proposals and suggested the asset manager was misinformed.

He said the selection process was extensive, and that Kottmann was one of four shortlisted candidates out of a total of more than 10.

A spokesman for GSW added that the appointment was made unanimously by the three-strong supervisory board and complied fully with German corporate governance rules.

GSW is an MDax-listed letting and management company for residential property, overseeing a 60,000-unit portfolio.

By capitalisation, it is Germany's fourth-largest landlord.

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