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New rail chief

April 3, 2009

Ruediger Grube - whose experience includes Daimler and EADS - set to take over Germany's rail company, Deutsche Bahn. His first task will be to get beyond the company's ongoing spying scandal.

Ruediger Grube
Grube poised to take on a new jobImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Germany's transport ministry on Thursday endorsed fifty-seven year-old Ruediger Grube, a top executive at carmaker Daimler, as the new head of the state-owned railway operator, Deutsche Bahn.

The ministry said Chancellor Angela Merkel and key government officials had agreed Wednesday evening on Grube for the hot-seat, replacing Hartmut Mehdorn, 66, who tendered his resignation this week after Deutsche Bahn admitted to the illicit surveillance of its employees.

Mehdorn resigned on Monday after being unable to end discussions on whether the company spied on employees' emails from 2005 to 2008 and blocked messages from unions during a 2007 labor dispute.

Grube is currently responsible for company strategy at automaker Daimler. He is also on the board of directors at European aircraft manufacturer EADS.

Grube has close ties to Mehdorn himself, having served as his office manager at another company - and the possibility Grube could become the successor to his former boss drew immediate protest from the opposition Green Party.

"This is not a new beginning, Mrs. Merkel," Green parliamentary leader Renate Kuenast told news agency reporters. "With Mehdorn's former assistant, there's the threat of more of the same."

The Deutsche Bahn in general - and Mehdorn himself - are currently under investigation in relation to the spying allegations. Leading politicians and labor unions have called for thorough scrutiny into Deutsche Bahn's allegedly comprehensive surveillance of its own employees.


Silhouette of Mehdorn in front of a Bahn logo
Accusations over employee surveillance are casting a shadow over Deutsche BahnImage: AP

But beyond being an associate of Mehdorn, who is Ruediger Grube?

Born in the northern German city of Hamburg, his career began with an apprenticeship in airplane construction.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he began working for Daimler's aeronautics division as well as for Airbus - now an EADS subsidiary.

He has been on Daimler's board of directors since 2001 and a top EADS executive for the past year and a half.

Grube's background has drawn criticism from people hoping someone with a background in the rail industry would take over Deutsche Bahn.

"After ten years of Mehdorn, there's no need for another would-be high-flyer from the aeronautics sector," Kuenast told reporters.

There has been no word on when Grube will be put forward as Mehdorn's successor.

nrt/jc/sh (ap/dpa/rtr/afp)