Nils Andersen, chief executive since 2007, will be replaced by Soren Skou, head of Maersk Line, on July 1.
Maersk’s board hinted at bigger changes ahead when it added that it had tasked the new management with looking at “strategic and structural options to further increase agility and synergies”.
Shares in Maersk rose 11 per cent on news of the change-over and potential shake-up.
Mr Andersen, a former Carlsberg chief executive, is credited with streamlining the once-sprawling conglomerate by selling off big stakes in Danske Bank and a local supermarket chain. He has also sought to offset Maersk’s dependence on the volatile container shipping business by investing in oil exploration and drilling rigs.
But the savage fall in the oil price in the past two years — coupled with container shipping rates falling to a record low earlier this year — left Maersk facing what Mr Andersen had termed “a perfect storm”.
Mr Skou, who has worked at Maersk since 1983, has a reputation as a disciplined manager who helped Maersk Line to consolidate its position as the most profitable container shipping group through several cost-cutting programmes.
Michael Rasmussen, Maersk’s chairman, said: “On behalf of the board of directors I thank Nils Andersen for considerable results in fronting the group’s international growth, strengthening the customer focus and competitiveness of the businesses, as well as simplifying governance and increasing transparency and communication with our stakeholders.”
Mr Andersen said: “On a personal level I am at a point in my life where I look forward to having a bit more time with my family after many years of constant work and I look forward to entering a new phase in my life.”
Mr Skou hinted at the changes ahead at the conglomerate, which also has interests in port terminals and logistics.
“The fast-paced changes of this world demand that we can adapt quickly, easily and at a minimal cost while retaining the focus on each business unit. Our future set-up must effectively respond to these challenges,” he said.
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