ESMT: Escape into the chancellery?
As of July 1, Lars-Hendrik Röller, President of the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin, will be Head of the Economic and Finance Policy department at the Federal Chancellery of Germany. But obviously he wasn’t the first choice for the job. Although Röller propelled the ESMT forward, he still remains behind in his own goals. A successor has yet to be named.
Röller had been president of the ESMT, which was founded by 25 companies, since 2006. Under his leadership, the school indeed made advances, expanding its faculty and increasing its endowments. But Röller hardly came close to achieving the goals that he himself had set out for the school.
The school is still lacking in reputation and lives primarily off the procedure that sees sponsor companies, which include Allianz, Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa, RWE and Thyssenkrupp, send their employees to seminars at the ESMT. With their total of 103 students, both MBA programs could only survive because there are massive scholarships.
Even though the ESMT constantly swears by its successes, the numbers indicate something different: The overall turnover in 2010 was lower than that of 2008. The number of participants in Executive Education has barely increased since 2008. There have been decreases in the customized programs. According to FT rankings, the turnover in 2009 was $8.9 million, while in 2011 it was only $7.7 million (but this time including revenues from food).
Röller, in contrast, has announced how pleased he is with “how well the ESMT has developed over the past years.” He is therefore sure that “the ESMT will also have a solid position in Germany in the future as a research-strong and the most international business school.” As far as known, the ESMT doesn’t yet even have the right to award doctorates.
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Röller never seems to fit into the role of president. He may be considered a renowned expert in competition law, but he seemed less suitable as the head of a business school, which initially positioned itself as the German Harvard. Before coming to the ESMT, where just in September 2010 Röller had extended his contract by five years, he was Chief Economist of the Directorate General for Competition at the EU Commission in Brussels. It is said that at the time, he would have happily extended his contract there. Only when this didn’t work out did he opt for the ESMT. The step back into politics must therefore be very convenient for him.
But what initially looked like a great success for the competition expert has since formed a slightly unpleasant aftertaste. This is because, at least according to the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, the new economic adviser to Angela Merkel apparently wasn’t the Chancellor’s first choice. Chancellor Merkel reportedly received several rejections during her search for someone to succeed the current German Federal Bank President, Jens Weidmann. It was only then that Röller accepted the offer. When he enters his post on July 1, he will not take on all the tasks that his predecessor fulfilled. The prestigious function as the commissioner for the World Economic Forum, as a so-called G20 Sherpa, will only come at the beginning of next year.
With Röller’s departure, one of the business school’s most lucrative sources of income could also suffer: The “Competition Analysis” consulting field that Röller developed. The subsidiary, which handles cases related to competition, is said to contribute significantly to the turnover.
How things will proceed at the ESMT remains to be seen. The school just bid farewell to its founding dean Wulff Plinke in April and the position is no longer occupied – leaving the ESMT without a leader.