LEJ is in big trouble

The Central German Airport Holding (MDF) is hit by two major hardships: A leading manager recently disappeared without a trace. It is unclear whether he is still alive. This may have something to do with the second difficulty the operator is facing: its likely insolvency. The holding company, which owns Leipzig/Halle (LEJ) and Dresden (DRS) Airports as well as the handling agent, PortGround, has been in the red for many years.

Aerial view of Leipzig/Halle Airport. At the forefront: cargo, express, maintenance. Opposite: passenger terminal and facilities – courtesy: MDF

Short bonanza
At the beginning of this decade, hopes were still high: e-trader Amazon announced plans in 2020 to set up a regional hub for air freight at LEJ – similar to DHL Express, but smaller in size. High volumes were promised along with 400 new jobs. After the news was aired, the LEJ managers had euro or dollar signs in their eyes.
However, the bonanza only lasted three years. In SEP23, Amazon decided to shut down its LEJ facility and switch transports from air to road. This unexpected withdrawal of the trader tore a hole in the holding company’s coffers. In 2022, LEJ had lost another major client: AirBridgeCargo shut down following the Russian assault on Ukraine and western sanctions banning Russian airlines from EU skies. More on those financial matters later.
First to the human drama. The missing manager is Andreas Schafhirt, a 62-year-old restructuring veteran, well recognized in this field. On 01FEB24, he took over the newly created position of Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) at MDF. His task: to develop a concept for the financially ailing company to initially stem the massive losses and generate profits in the longer term.

Without a trace
At the end of APR24, his wife who lives in Berlin, reported him missing. Asked by media, Berlin police spokeswoman, Beate Ostertag stated that “as a matter of principle, we do not provide any information on the search for missing persons.” In an internal letter to the employees of Leipzig/Halle and Dresden Airports, holding CEO, Götz Ahmelmann said: “We have no further information at this time. However, it can be assumed that Andreas Schafhirt will not be returning to his job in the near future. Due to these acute circumstances, I ask for your understanding that we cannot provide any precise details at the moment. We are in close contact with the shareholders, the banks, and our Chairman of the Supervisory Board.”
Information from sources close to the case spread this weekend, indicate that the police have found Schafhirt. Whether he is alive or dead is unclear. Local authorities refuse to provide any explanation.

Severe inconsistencies
According to our media partner, online portal airliners.de, Schafhirt had unveiled several inconsistencies at the holding company shortly before his disappearance. For example, it is said to have filled important management positions without the necessary due diligence. In addition, members of the Executive Board were allegedly allowed to set their own annual targets, which led to unlawful bonus payments in an already strained financial situation at the company.
A KPMG survey, presented in JAN24, also confirms serious financial imbalances that burden the Airport Holding. The experts recommend a fundamental restructuring of the company to reduce losses and achieve a turnaround mid-term. CargoForwarder Global heard that lender Commerzbank demanded the dismissal of the entire upper Management and its replacement. However, this drastic measure was rejected by the supervisory bodies. The holding company is owned by two major stakeholders: the states of Saxony (77.29%) and Saxony-Anhalt (18.54%). The remaining assets are held by the cities of Dresden, Leipzig and Halle.

Temu or Shein ?
In order to generate new influx, the holding company (MDF) is apparently considering a partial sale of its handling unit, PortGround GmbH, internal circles have told CargoForwarder Global. The Chinese trading platforms, Temu and Shein, have been named as potential investors.
In addition to this, the sale of Dresden Airport was also briefly considered internally. However, the idea was dropped right after it came up because fierce political opposition from Saxony’s federal government would torpedo such plans.

Teckentrup steps in
In the meantime, the former Condor boss, Ralf Teckentrup, has taken on an advisory role at MDF. He is to support Leipzig/Halle and Dresden Airports in the current financial crisis and in the ongoing restructuring process.
However, airliners.de states that the holding company has not yet officially confirmed Teckentrup’s appointment.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

See Also