In the first major change since Gunter Thielen succeeded Thomas Middelhoff as chairman of Bertelsmann less than two weeks ago, Klaus Eierhoff, CEO of the company's DirectGroup, is leaving the company "by mutual agreement" and will be replaced by Ewald Walgenbach, who has been Bertelsmann's chief operating officer. The position of COO is being eliminated. Bertelsmann said Eierhoff's departure is tied to "differences of opinion about the strategic orientation of the direct-to-consumer group." The group includes all of Bertelsmann's book and music clubs and e-commerce activities. Among the executives who will report to Walgenbach is Bookspan head Markus Wilhelm.
Prior to Eierhoff's departure, Wilhelm issued a memo to Bookspan employees assuring the staff that Thielen is a firm supporter of the book clubs. Wilhelm's memo followed a visit to Bookspan headquarters by the new chairman and noted that Thielen considers book clubs to be a core business.