Could Soren Toft – who was the chief operating officer of Maersk until Nov. 11 – have jumped ship and joined the Danish shipping giant's rival MSC?
Switzerland-based MSC, a partner of Maersk in the 2M alliance, refused to respond when FreightWaves asked if, as widely rumored, the 45-year old Toft will be announced as the company's new CEO next week. Diego Aponte, the son of controlling shareholder Gianluigi Aponte, is the carrier's current president and CEO.
Maersk CEO Soren Skou also refused to comment when asked about Toft this morning as he reported solid third quarter results for the container line.
A number of shipping insiders contacted by FreightWaves said they believed MSC would make the announcement that Toft would join the company in the coming days.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one said, "I can't believe it, but I'm hearing that is indeed the case."
A ship manager familiar with both lines said, "that is what I'm told."
Another source said, "It would be a good appointment, but walking into the enemy camp within hours is more surprising."
Simon Heaney, senior manager for container research at Drewry, told FreightWaves that if Toft does surface at MSC, then the manner of his departure from Denmark-based Maersk will be the biggest shock.
"I'm quite surprised that Maersk didn't insert some sort of handcuff clause preventing him from joining a direct rival," he said. "But it's actually quite common for top Maersk execs to take leading jobs elsewhere and Toft certainly served his time."
The Maersk Mafia
The latter point was also noted by Lars Jensen, CEO of SeaIntelligence Consulting.
"Not only is the Danish company – of course – run by one of their own people, but the CEOs of MSC, Hapag-Lloyd and ONE will also all have a background at Maersk."
Jensen explained, "Rolf Habben Jansen (CEO of Hapag-Lloyd) was CEO of Damco within Maersk from 2009 to 2014 and Jeremy Nixon [the CEO of] ONE was Vice President in Maersk from 2005-2008 where he came in following the acquisition of P&O Nedlloyd.
"These four carriers combined control almost 50% of the global container shipping capacity."
A Maersk spokesman did not comment when asked if Toft had defected to MSC but insisted the rumors were being fueled by a shipping website and were based on "anonymous industry sources."
He added, "As for the future of Søren Toft, we do not have further to add to the announcement we shared on Monday," he added.
Toft "Ghosted" From Q3 Results
The only mention of Toft in the third quarter results presentation by A.P. Moller – Maersk this morning was the following: "On 11 November 2019, it was announced that Søren Toft, COO, has left A.P. Moller – Maersk to pursue an opportunity outside the company. Søren Skou, CEO has taken on the responsibilities of the COO in the interim."
Toft's departure from Maersk was so sudden that his biography is still listed on Maersk's website. It notes that, prior to being appointed COO in 2014, Toft "held various commercial and operational roles both in headquarters, Germany and Indonesia before his appointment as Head of Network Planning in Maersk, a position he held until 2014".
It adds, "Søren Toft has also overseen the acquisition and integration of Hamburg Süd. The deal closed in the fourth quarter of 2017, and he is now Board Member of the Advisory Board in Hamburg Süd."
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