Hermann J. Strenger was the first Chairman of Bayer’s Board of Management who was not a chemist by profession. During his tenure from 1984 to 1992 he drove forward the company’s internationalization and sought a dialogue with the public about the chemical industry.
Born in Cologne on September 26, 1928, Strenger began his career path at Bayer, where his father was already employed, joining the company as a commercial trainee in 1949. He worked mainly in the Chemicals Sales Department at Leverkusen until 1954 and then at the age of only 25 transferred to São Paulo, Brazil, where he gained his first overseas experience and carried out pioneering work in the marketing of dyestuffs from 1954 until 1957.
Only one year after returning to Leverkusen, he assumed responsibility for the sale of plastics and tanning materials at Swedish subsidiary AB Anilin Kemi in Gothenburg. In 1961 he was appointed head of the Sales Department for coating raw materials in Leverkusen, and in 1963 became the youngest employee at that time to be granted full power of representation. From 1970 until his appointment to the Board of Management in 1972, Strenger was commercial head of the Polyurethanes Division. As a member of the Board of Management, he served as spokesman for a number of key divisions, departments and regions, including Dyestuffs, Polyurethanes, Agricultural Chemicals, Procurement and the Latin America region.
After succeeding Dr. Herbert Grünewald as Chairman of the Board of Management in 1984, Strenger focused on strengthening the company's organizational and financial structures. The established businesses were expanded through extensive strategic acquisitions. Under Strenger's leadership, the traditionally large research and development budget exceeded DM 3 billion for the first time, with research activities focusing mainly on new developments in polymers, engineering ceramics, crop protection and pharmaceuticals.
The positive business performance during Strenger's tenure as Bayer CEO was accompanied by a broadly based environmental protection program. He developed a corporate philosophy under which environmental protection and commercial success were declared to be objectives of equal rank. It was under his leadership that Bayer decided to support the rebuilding of the economy in the eastern part of Germany following the country’s reunification through a program of investment and job creation in Bitterfeld.
Strenger served as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Bayer AG from 1992 until 2002. From 1987 until 1993 he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carl Duisberg Society. In 1989, to mark the completion of his 40 years of service with the company, the "Hermann Strenger Foundation for the Promotion of International Work Experience" was established. Strenger continued to reside in Leverkusen for the rest of his life, retaining his links with the Bayer Group through his honorary chairmanship of the Supervisory Board. He died on September 13, 2016, shortly before his 88th birthday.