Head of Swiss national exhibition sacked

Switzerland’s controversial project for a national exhibition in 2001 suffered another blow on Thursday, when the embattled Director-General Jacqueline Fendt was sacked amid allegations of management inadequacies.

This content was published on August 5, 1999 - 18:18

Switzerland’s controversial project for a national exhibition in 2001 suffered another blow on Thursday, when the embattled Director-General Jacqueline Fendt was sacked amid allegations of management inadequacies.

The steering committee, which has been overseeing the work of Fendt and her team, announced its decision after a special crisis meeting in Neuchâtel.

The president of the committee Francis Matthey said Expo.01 technical director Nelly Wenger would take over Fendt's position for the time being.

Matthey said the committee would also review its own policies and would try to improve communication at the top management level.

Before she went into the committee meeting, Fendt said she was aware that she would be sacked but added that she would not resign herself because she had publicly pledged to make the project a success.

On Wednesday, Fendt’s four co-directors called for her to go, saying the public as well as Swiss business had lost confidence in her.

Fendt, 46, enjoyed broad support when she took up her post. But two years later, there is a shortfall of funds, a marked lack of interest by businesses and a string of recent resignations that have raised questions about the future of the project.

Expo.01 spokesman Franz Egle accused Fendt of a problematic management style which had led to a general loss of confidence and which had paralysed the future development of the project.

However, the outgoing director-general rejected that criticism, saying she had built a team that worked well and had managed to get financial pledges from Swiss businesses totalling SFr590 million ($393 million).

The Expo.01 crisis made media headlines throughout the country in the last few weeks and also triggered political calls for the Swiss government to intervene.

The Cabinet is to meet next week to discuss the situation but Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin has said he does not want to change the basic concept of the exhibition.

In a letter published Wednesday, Fendt said that whatever happened, she hoped that the “dream of staging an innovative and imaginative Expo.01 would be kept alive.”

The Expo.01 project will see four major exhibition areas in the Neuchâtel, Murten, Biel and Yverdon-les-Bains regions in western Switzerland. The displays, installations and artistic projects are meant to portray the kind of social, political, scientific and educational topics which are relevant for modern day Switzerland.

From staff and wire reports.


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