REV: OCTOBER 17, 2008
JOHN J. GABARRO
Wolfgang Keller at Königsbräu-TAK (A)
After a two-month temporary assignment in Brazil, Wolfgang (Wolf) Keller was returning to Europe, where he would meet his family in Switzerland for a 10-day ski vacation. His boss, Dr. Hans Häussler, had insisted that he take the time off before returning to Ukraine, where Keller was managing director1 of Königsbräu’s Ukrainian subsidiary, Königsbräu-TAK A.E. The parent corporation, Königsbräu A.G., was a Munich-based brewer of premium beers with worldwide sales of 10.3 billion Euros (€). Königsbräu was known as one of the best-managed and most profitable brewers of premium beer in the world, and its brand enjoyed high recognition and prestige on almost every continent. During the flight from Rio to Zurich, Keller decided to review several problems that would need his attention when he returned to Kiev in two weeks. The most pressing problem concerned Dmitri Brodsky, Königsbräu-TAK’s commercial director (a title roughly equivalent to vice president of marketing and sales in North America). Brodsky had joined the firm two years earlier, and his performance had increasingly concerned and annoyed Keller. After several difficult discussions with Häussler, Keller felt that he could no longer delay taking action on the matter. As Keller saw it, he had three options. One option was to fire Brodsky or, at the minimum, not give him an annual salary increase, which might have the same effect. Keller suspected that firing him would not be well received by Königsbräu’s corporate headquarters, and Brodsky’s voluntary departure might also raise questions. A second alternative was to try, once again, to help Brodsky improve his performance. The third alternative was to try to reorganize around Brodsky to compensate for his inadequacies, perhaps by splitting marketing and sales.
Wolf Keller was a 34-year-old graduate of the Harvard Business School. His undergraduate work had been in business economics and chemistry at the University of Cologne. Upon finishing business school, Keller joined a large German manufacturer of food products as a strategic planner. This assignment was short-lived, however, and within six months he was made general manager of a small subsidiary in Ukraine that was in serious economic difficulty. Keller turned the subsidiary around in less than two years and was subsequently promoted to general manager of a €29 million subsidiary in Germany that was also in trouble. By the time he had turned around the second subsidiary, he had a reputation as a successful hands-on manager. 1Outside of North America, the titles managing director and director were generally equivalent to president and vice
president, respectively. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professor John J. Gabarro prepared this case with the assistance of Research Associates Alison Comings and Jennifer M. Suesse. This case is a revised and disguised version of “Königsbräu-Hellas A.E. (Abridged)” prepared by Professor John J. Gabarro and Research Associate Colleen Kaftan. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 1997, 2006-2008 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.
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