Economic State Secretary Tino Schopf (SPD) had to deliver the message on behalf of the sick senator. On Tuesday afternoon, Schopf called Sonja Groneweg and Alexander Pett and suggested that the supervisory board of the state-owned Messe Berlin GmbH resign. They declined. As a result, the dismissal of the two by Economics Senator Stephan Schwarz as representative of the shareholder was sent by post. The next board meeting on June 15 will therefore take place without Groneweg and Pett. The official reason for the maneuver: the realignment of the trade fair company after the pandemic.

In truth, the dismissal is a punitive action: Pett and Groneweg belong to the gfu camp, the company for consumer electronics, which owns the Ifa radio exhibition and which wants to organize the Ifa together with the Anglo-Saxon event group Clarion by 2024 at the latest. And in Berlin. gfu/Clarion have been negotiating this with Messe Berlin for months, have gotten stuck and a conflict has escalated with mutual accusations. Under what conditions will the Ifa take place in Berlin after 2023? After trade fair manager Martin Ecknig was unable to reach an agreement with gfu management on this issue, he flies to London on Whit Monday to find a solution with Clarion boss Simon Kimble. It’s about time, because the talk about the future of Ifa is damaging the almost 100-year-old, world-famous industry fair.

Ifa is owned by gfu, which in turn has commissioned Messe Berlin to organize the event. The corresponding contract expires next year, from 2024 gfu wants to organize the Ifa together with Clarion and has founded a company in which gfu holds 30 percent and Clarion 70 percent. Also involved on the Clarion side: Christian Göke, Managing Director of Messe Berlin until 2020.

The Ifa bosses Jens Heithecker and Dirk Koslowski also belong to the Clarion camp. Both have received an offer from Clarion, both of whom informed Ecknig about this months ago. Heithecker had resigned from the trade fair in January on December 31, 2022 and was fired without notice by Ecknig at the end of April because he is said to have betrayed a trade secret. The forensic experts from Deloitte, who are investigating the work of Göke and Heithecker on behalf of the trade fair, allegedly found a telltale email from Heithecker to Göke.

This week Koslowski was also released and Ecknig presented the successors. “The new dual leadership of David Ruetz and Kai Mangelberger replaces the previous Ifa directors Jens Heithecker and Dirk Koslowski.” “We are ready, as the world’s most important trade fair for consumer and home electronics, to prepare an appropriate stage for the restart of the industry,” said Ecknig. Ruetz and Mangelberger formed a management duo “which, together with the Ifa team, will accompany the countdown well over the next few months”. That doesn’t sound like a solution beyond 2022. That would hardly be possible with ITB boss Ruetz. Mangelberger was most recently “Deputy Director” of the railway trade fair Innotrans.

Meanwhile, the gfu bosses around the chairman of the supervisory board, Volker Klodwig, are losing patience. Since the relationship with Messe Berlin is broken, they are considering a premature exit from the Ifa contract, it is said. Then the radio exhibition would take place for the last time in September and not in 2023.

In any case, the dismissal of the longtime gfu managing director Pett from the trade fair supervisory board does not help to calm gfu’s minds. Especially since it marks the end of an eight-year-old appointment. The chairman of the supervisory board at the time, Hans-Joachim Kamp – formerly head of Philips in Germany and member of the supervisory board of gfu – resigned from the supervisory board in June 2014 on the condition that gfu retained a seat on the board. The Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit (SPD) agreed. The agreement lasted until Tuesday evening, when State Secretary Schopf called Pett. By the way, in the summer of 2014, Stephan Schwarz, the President of the Berlin Trades and Trades Department, played a key role in resolving the conflict surrounding Kamp, Göke and Economics Senator Cornelia Yzer (CDU).