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Søren Toft linked to key role in MSC management shake-up

Former Maersk chief operating officer Søren Toft rumoured to be taking over at 2M alliance partner MSC

MSC has declined to comment on rumours of a management shake-up, but industry speculation suggests that veteran chairman Gianluigi Aponte might be about to step down from the world’s second-biggest ocean cargo mover. The company is said to be preparing an announcement within days

GIANLUIGI Aponte is to step down as executive chairman of Mediterranean Shipping Co. to be replaced by his son, Diego, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The management shake-up at the world’s second-largest container line will also see Søren Toft, the former chief operating officer of AP Moller Maersk, become chief executive of MSC’s container unit, the newspaper said, citing unidentified people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Maersk announced last week that Mr Toft was leaving his post with immediate effect to pursue opportunities outside the company.

Not since Flemming Jacobs quit Maersk 20 years ago to join Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines has the departure of a top executive from the Danish group created such a stir.

Adding spice to the news was speculation that Mr Toft, who had been seen by some as a successor to AP Moller-Maersk chief executive Søren Skou, would be joining MSC.

The rumours started almost immediately, but family-owned MSC, where Diego Aponte is group president and chief executive of the container shipping division, has declined to comment.

But that has not stopped speculation about why Mr Toft would leave the world’s largest containership operator to join its biggest competitor, albeit also a partner through the 2M alliance.

Yet he would have built up a close relationship with MSC through that partnership, and also on work to make containerships safer by cracking down on cargo misdeclarations.

This is an issue about which both companies feel very strongly, and on which Diego Aponte and Søren Toft have been collaborating to find a solution through an initiative sponsored by the Box Club.

One line of thought is that Diego Aponte could move up to executive chairman, with his father, now in his late 70s, easing up. Having said that, those who know the older Mr Aponte think it is highly unlikely that he will take much of a step back.

Suggestions that Diego Aponte could take over the cruise division that is currently run by his brother-in-law Pierfrancesco Vago are considered less likely by those who know the family.

For Mr Toft, the attraction of becoming chief executive of MSC’s containership operations could be far more freedom in a privately-owned group without the limitations of  outside shareholders and stock market demands.

The Apontes also command tremendous loyalty from staff, who say MSC is a great company to work for because of the passion and compassion shown by the family.

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