Lindt chief quits after chairman's marriage

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The Independent Online
ZURICH (Reuter) - The chief executive of the Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli has abruptly resigned two days after the firm's chairman said he secretly married a woman with ties to an obscure theosophical sect.

The firm said that Ulrich Geissmann, who was also vice-chairman of the board, would leave at the end of the week.

The company and Mr Geissmann, who took up his post in June last year, had parted by mutual agreement, a spokesman said.

The company's shares fell by almost 9 per cent on Tuesday after news of the marriage.

The spokesman said that turnover at the end of July was above 1991 levels and income considerably better than last year.

'This has been achieved without acquisitions and in a less friendly economic environment than last year,' he added.

He said Mr Geissmann and the company would not comment on the reasons for the sudden departure and a successor would be announced in due course.

Rudolph Spruengli married Alexandra Gantenbein, an occasional member of the American 'I Am' movement. He originally announced the wedding in the spring but cancelled it at short notice after newspapers suggested the firm was in danger of being infiltrated by a theosophical movement.

The spokesman said Miss Gantenbein had no official capacity in the company and was only Mr Spruengli's personal adviser.

An independent accountant's report, commissioned by the board, gave the company a clean bill of health but said Miss Gantenbein had influenced the appointment of top managers.

Lindt & Spruengli earned group net profit of Sfr23.5m ( pounds 9.3m) in 1991, up from Sfr19.4m in 1990. Group turnover last year was Sfr979.2m compared with Sfr881.2m the year before.

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