Technology

Marc Grynberg, a man of few words

Umicore CEO Marc Grynberg is leaving Umicore at his peak. Without much fuss or words. That has characterized him throughout his career.

In 2006, Grynberg, who studied commercial engineering at Solvay and began his career at DuPont de Nemours in Brussels and Geneva, heads the group’s automotive catalyst division in Henau, Germany. This grew into one of the three important divisions of the group. To illustrate: one in four cars in the world drives around with Umicore catalytic converters.

In 2008 he succeeds Thomas Leysen as managing director of Umicore. Leysen moves on to the chair of the chair in succession of Karel Vinck.

Grynberg, together with Leysen, was the driving force behind the ‘environmental transformation’, which in recent decades converted the former Union Minière from a heavily polluting raw materials company into a modern ‘environmental multinational’ that focuses on battery materials, recycling of precious metals (Hoboken) and automotive catalysts.

Grynberg did not have Leysen’s charisma, but during his CEO position always managed to keep Umicore on track under the motto ‘we think long term’. This involved investments of hundreds of millions of euros in all three divisions.

Grynberg – invariably without a tie – is a man of few words and sometimes comes across as somewhat timid. But appearances can be deceiving. He is self-assured, but always deliberates.

Hoboken

Last summer, Grynberg came under heavy fire for alarming reports about the pollution of the Hoboken site, the recycling center and the group’s goldcrest. Research showed that children near the factory had high doses of lead in their blood.

He also managed to maneuver himself skillfully out of that storm, although many a critic frowned at his explanation. “Hoboken is not a problem child,” he said laconically in an interview. ‘The problem is not new. I think it is time to put the problem in a broader perspective. We have been saying for twenty years that it is not healthy for children to live near the factory walls. ‘

Grynberg was never tempted to make spectacular statements. He has been brushing aside alarming reports about competitors that may hit Umicore for years with ‘we are much further’.

He once made his voice heard in an interview two years ago when he proposed to charge a 15 euro deposit on smartphones. An environmentally friendly statement that would at the same time be a good thing for its factory in Hoboken, which recycles all the expensive materials in those appliances.

Grynberg is a fervert cyclist and photographer. He is married and has two sons.

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