Klaus Kleinfeld

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Klaus Kleinfeld
2016 photo of Klaus Kleinfeld - tiff.tif
Kleinfeld in 2016
Klaus-Christian Kleinfeld

Alma materDiplom, Business Administration, University of Göttingen,
Göttingen, Germany
Ph.D., Strategic Management
University of Würzburg
Würzburg, Germany
OccupationEx-Chairman and Ex CEO of Arconic, president of the NEOM project in Saudi Arabia.

Klaus-Christian Kleinfeld (born 6 November 1957 in Bremen, Germany) is the former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Arconic. Kleinfeld is former chairman and CEO of Alcoa Inc., and former president and CEO of Siemens AG.[1][2][3] Kleinfeld stepped down as chairman and CEO of Arconic on 17 April 2017.[4] In October 2017, he was revealed as the director of the Saudi Arabia's NEOM initiative.[5] It was announced in July 2018 that Kleinfeld would be promoted from Director of Neom to advisor of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman on 1 August 2018. Nadhmi Al-Nasr would be succeeding as Director of Neom.

In August 2007, Kleinfeld was appointed COO of New York, NY-based Alcoa Inc.[6] In May 2008, Kleinfeld was appointed CEO of Alcoa, succeeding Alain Belda. In April 2010, Kleinfeld was named chairman of Alcoa and continued to serve as CEO and Chairman of the Board until his resignation in April 2017.[1][7]

Kleinfeld served as CEO of Munich, Germany-based Siemens AG from January 2005 until July 2007.[8] Kleinfeld's efforts to modernize the company led to conflict with defenders of Siemens' traditional business culture.[9] However, the company's financial performance flourished.[9][10] Previously, Kleinfeld transformed Siemens Management Consulting into an effective partner for the global businesses.[8] He contributed significantly to the profitable turnaround of Siemens' regional business in the U.S.[8]

In 2006, a German government investigation uncovered slush funds in secret bank accounts maintained by Siemens in order to win contracts.[10][11] Investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing by Kleinfeld and no charges were brought against him. In 2009, Kleinfeld, along with other former top Siemens executives, agreed to pay Siemens a sum to settle a related civil matter.[11][12][13] In June 2007, Kleinfeld left Siemens, citing uncertainty about his future with the company after divisions among Siemens board members concerning the extension of his contract became public.[14][15][16]

Kleinfeld started his career in 1982 by joining a specialized marketing consulting firm where he worked with clients such as Siemens, Henkel, Citibank, EFFEN, and various industry associations.[17]

Early life and education[edit]

Klaus-Christian Kleinfeld was born on 6 November 1957 in Bremen, Germany. He earned a business degree from Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany and a Ph.D. in management from the University of Würzburg in Würzburg, Germany.[17]


In 1982, Kleinfeld began his career as a marketing consultant.[7] In 1986, he joined Ciba-Geigy, a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland, where he was a product manager in the company's Pharmaceutical Division.[18]

Siemens AG[edit]

In 1987, Kleinfeld joined Munich-based Siemens AG, a global engineering and technology services firm based in the U.S. and Germany.[9] His first position was in the company's Corporate Sales and Marketing unit, where he worked as a marketing research manager.[19] In 1990, he founded and led Siemens Management Consulting, an internal global partner for Siemens' businesses that played a major role in the restructuring of many Siemens' business units around the world and provided a foundation for Kleinfeld's future operational and portfolio actions at Alcoa.[20]

In January 2001, Kleinfeld was promoted to chief operating officer (COO) of Siemens USA.[21] The recession in the U.S. had adversely impacted profits and Kleinfeld conceived a radical strategy to improve the performance of Siemens' operating companies. He also sought to fix, sell or close operations of recently acquired companies and create new cross-selling opportunities. Unprofitable operations were reduced from 24 to 8 and other cost-cutting measures saved an estimated $100 million.[22] From January 2005 to June 2007, Kleinfeld served as CEO of Siemens USA.[23]

In January 2004, Kleinfeld was appointed to Siemens' Corporate Executive Committee. Also in 2004, Kleinfeld was appointed Vice President of Siemens AG.[24]

In 2004, Kleinfeld undertook instituting the customer- and shareholder-focused corporate culture, pressuring German unions to loosen labor rules and extending the German workweek from 35 to 40 hours with no additional pay.[9] Kleinfeld said that German workers "have to adjust and understand what the world is like" to remain competitive.[1][25][26] In just over two years, sales rose 16 percent, profits increased 35 percent, and shares soared 40 percent.[9][10] In January 2005 he was named CEO, succeeding Heinrich von Pierer.[27]

In November 2005, Kleinfeld and Siemens signed a contract with CNR Group for 669 million euro agreement that gave the Chinese access to the intellectual property jewels of the former. The first of these trains were to run in 2008 on the Beijing-Tianjin route. Only the first three of 60 trains were to be built in Germany. The balance were built in Tangshan, Hebei Province at the plant which is now named CRRC Tangshan.[28][29] Later, in February 2019, this arrangement with the Chinese would be used to argue (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) before EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager that the merger between Siemens and Alstom ought to be consummated because economies of scale were necessary to compete with CRRC, which had been born of CNR Group.[30]

Kleinfeld's plan to modernize the company led to conflict with defenders of Siemens' traditional business culture.[9][31] Because of the traditional two-tier German governance structure, a supervisory board that included union and shareholder representatives balked at Kleinfeld's restructuring plans.[10][32] While his strategies were generally viewed positively by the worldwide financial press, Kleinfeld was criticized by German media, mostly for a perceived lack of social responsibility pertaining to Siemens workers.[33]

Under Kleinfeld's leadership, the Siemens' financially stricken mobile handset business was sold to Taiwan's BenQ in June 2005.[33] The division's German subsidiary, BenQ Mobile GmbH & Co. OHG, declared bankruptcy about one year later when the Taiwanese parent enterprise stopped all funding, resulting in extensive redundancies.[34] This led to speculation in the German media that Siemens had off-loaded the division to avoid dealing with the fallout of its imminent demise.[31] At about the same time, Siemens' Supervisory Board increased the salary of the Siemens Managing Board by 30%.[35] In an attempt to limit damage over negative publicity, the board pledged their pay rises to a relief fund set up by Siemens to aid workers affected by the handset sale.[31][33] Prior to his role as CEO, Kleinfeld transformed Siemens Management Consulting into an effective partner for the global businesses and he contributed significantly to the profitable turnaround of Siemens' regional business in the U.S. By April 2007, all Siemens Groups reached or exceeded target margins for the first time.[8]

Bribery investigation[edit]

In November 2006, a fraud investigation by the German government became public.[36] The investigation later found that Siemens maintained slush funds in secret bank accounts outside Germany that the company used to win contracts.[10][11][37] Once the investigation became public, Kleinfeld hired outside legal and auditing experts to conduct an independent investigation and revamp the company's internal accounting and control practices and eliminate potential improper practices.[38] The independent investigation later found that the company paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes, which were legal in Germany until 1999, but that there were "no indications of personal misconduct or that Kleinfeld had any knowledge of events" related to the scandal.[39] Corruption charges were brought against Siemens by the SEC.[40] Kleinfeld and other former Siemens executives and board members were accused of "failing to prevent corruption".[41] No charges were brought against Kleinfeld and the Department of Justice cited Siemens' cooperation and the independent investigation initiated by Kleinfeld as factors for reducing Siemens' monetary penalty.[42]

In June 2007, Kleinfeld left Siemens, citing uncertainty about his future with the company after divisions among Siemens board members concerning the extension of his contract became public.[14][15][16] In September 2009, Siemens threatened to sue Kleinfeld and other former executives for supervisory failings and extended a settlement offer to compensate the company for millions of dollars in fines and damage to its "reputation."[43][44] Kleinfeld agreed to settle the matter for 2 million euros.[12][41]


In 2003, Kleinfeld became a member of Alcoa's Board of Directors.[1] In August 2007, Alcoa appointed Kleinfeld president and chief operating officer.[45] In May 2008, he was named CEO, succeeding Alain J. P. Belda.[7][46] By the end of 2008, the world was experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and the aluminum industry suffered a dramatic downturn. In April 2008, Alcoa reported that first-quarter profits fell more than 50% compared to the same period a year earlier.[17][46][47] In 2009, Alcoa stock, which hit a peak share price of $47 in July 2007, slumped to below $5.50 per share. Kleinfeld instituted a turnaround program that focused on strengthening cash flow and adding new responsibilities to senior leaders' roles.[48]

In late 2009, Alcoa formed a joint venture with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company, Ma'aden, to build the lowest-cost aluminum facility in the world.[49][50] Toward the end of 2010, Alcoa's stock rebounded to $15 per share.[17] In April 2010, Kleinfeld was named chairman of Alcoa.[1][7]

In 2012, Kleinfeld began closing a number of costly, outdated smelting facilities.[51] In 2013, Kleinfeld predicted continuing strong sales growth for Alcoa, citing a backlog in aerospace manufacturing and an increasing demand for lightweight aluminum products in the automotive and construction industries because of a "historic shift" toward fuel and energy efficiency.[52]

Kleinfeld has striven to reshape Alcoa from an aluminum-only company to a diversified lightweight multi-materials technology, engineering and manufacturing company and he directed the acquisition of three companies to position Alcoa to the aerospace business.[49][53][54] In November 2014, Alcoa completed a $2.85 billion acquisition of jet engine components manufacturer Firth Rixson.[55] In March 2015, the company acquired German titanium and aluminum castings supplier Tital.[56] Also in March 2015, Alcoa announced a $1.5 billion acquisition of global titanium supplier RTI International Metals.[53] Alcoa has also developed new markets for aluminum, such as the aluminum skin of Samsung Galaxy phones and stronger, more fuel-efficient aluminum truck wheels.[54]

Kleinfeld has implemented a transformation strategy to reduce the company's reliance on commodities, transforming it into a global leader in lightweight metals and increasing its reputation for manufacturing innovation.[57] On 28 September 2015, Alcoa completed its transformation with an announcement that it would split into two publicly traded companies the following year – a spin-off called Alcoa Corp., and another comprising the renamed Alcoa Inc., Arconic, which would hold onto Alcoa Inc.'s value-add mid- and downstream businesses.[58] Kleinfeld remained as Arconic's chairman and CEO following the split. Kleinfeld initially proposed to serve as chairman of the upstream company during the critical initial phase to ensure a smooth and effective transition.[59] However, the proposal to serve as chairman of the new upstream company was rejected by the board and Kleinfeld has no affiliation with the new company.

STEM education initiatives[edit]

Under Kleinfeld's direction, Alcoa has supported STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce development initiatives to train and educate students and teachers globally.[60] A July 2012 op-ed piece co-authored by Kleinfeld and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, proposed closer business and government collaboration to narrow the STEM skills gap between the labor market and manufacturers.[61] In September 2013, President Obama appointed Kleinfeld to the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0 for Alcoa's continuing efforts to maintain U.S. leadership in emerging technologies.[62]


On 1 November 2016, Alcoa separated its raw aluminum operation from business units that supply the aerospace and automotive markets.[63] The renamed Alcoa Inc., Arconic (ARNC), produces finished parts for the automotive and aerospace industries.[64] The spin-off retained is a newly created company Alcoa Corp., that retains the Alcoa name. Alcoa Corp. holds onto the raw aluminum operations. The split was announced in September 2015.

Resignation from Arconic[edit]

On 31 January 2017, the hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation launched a proxy contest against the company. Elliott publicly called for the firing of Kleinfeld, citing the company's lackluster stock performance, missed profit forecasts, and inefficient spending.[65] On 17 April 2017, Kleinfeld resigned as chairman and CEO by mutual agreement with the board of Arconic, after sending an unauthorized letter to Elliott.[66]


He is a member of the Bilderberg Group Steering Committee,[67] the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees,[68] the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum,[69] the Board of the World Economic Forum USA,[69] and the Metropolitan Opera Advisory Board.[70] In 2009, Kleinfeld was named Chairman of the Board of the U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC), which promotes trade and investment between the U.S. and Russia.[71] In 2013, Kleinfeld joined the U.S.-China Business Council Board of Directors and is a member of the Chinese Premier's Global CEO Advisory Council.[72] Previously, Kleinfeld served on the Supervisory Board of Bayer AG from 2005 to 2014, was a director of Citigroup Inc. from 2005 to 2007, and served as a member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG from 2004 to 2007.[73] Mr. Kleinfeld also served on the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley and Hewlett Packard Enterprise until April 2017.[74][75]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In December 2014, Kleinfeld received a Legend in Leadership Award from the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.[76] Also in December 2014, Kleinfeld received a Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Leadership Award from the Business Council for International Understanding.[77][78] In May 2014, Kleinfeld was named CEO of the Year at the 2014 Platts Global Metals Awards.[79][80]

Personal life[edit]

Kleinfeld resides in New York with his wife, Birgit, and two children.[1][18]


  • Shaping the Future. The Siemens Entrepreneurs 1847–2018. Ed. Siemens Historical Institute, Hamburg 2018, ISBN 9-783867-746243.
  • Corporate Identity und strategische Unternehmensführung, Akademie-Verlag München 1994, ISBN 3-929115-16-6


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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Heinrich von Pierer
CEO of Siemens AG
2005 – 2007
Succeeded by
Peter Löscher
Preceded by
Alain Belda
CEO of Alcoa Inc.
2008 – 2016
Succeeded by
Company renamed
Preceded by
New company
CEO of Arconic
2016 – 2017
Succeeded by
David Hess