Germans companies have a Vorstand, or managing board. The Vorstandsvorsitzender is the head of the Vorstand, but not in the sense of a CEO, rather as a primus inter pares or first among equals. The CEO-principle is an Anglo-American construct.
German law governing publicly traded companies requires the naming of a Vorstand or managing board, but not of a Vorstandsvorsitzender. §77/78 AktG expects joint management and joint representation of the company. German law does not recognize the title of Vorstandsvorsitzender, chairman or head of the managing board or CEO. The law can, however, be interpreted to accept a company internal set-up allowing for a Vorstandsvorsitzender.
BMW: The formation of a managing board and its compensation – The managing board consists of several people and has a Vorsitzenden. Company governance directives define the cooperation within the managing board, in particular the roles and responsibilities of the various departments or divisions as represented by their individual board member.
BASF: The managing board. §7 Members. Members of the managing board are selected and deselected by the supervisory board. The managing board has at least two members. The supervisory board can name further managing board members. The supervisory board can select a managing board member to be the Vorsitzender, as well as another to be the Vice-Vorsitzender.
ThyssenKrupp: §3 – Vorsitzender of the managing board. The Vorsitzender is responsible for coordinating all of the areas represented in the managing board, and maintaining a cohesive approach to reaching the goals set by the managing board. The Vorsitzender can at any time request information from other managing board members pertaining to their area of the company. The Vorsitzender should be informed at the earliest possible time about any important decisions made by the other members of the managing board.