LEVERKUSEN — Bayer global communications chief Herbert Heitmann is stepping down after almost three years in one of the country's most prominent PR roles, the company has confirmed.

Heitmann's position as head of communications, government relations and corporate brand has been assumed by Bayer veteran Michael Preuss, who is promoted by the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant after previously serving as head of corporate communications.

Heitmann's departure comes after he joined Bayer from Shell in September 2013. His boss, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers, is due to step down at the end of 2016. Both Dekkers and Heitmann were external hires by Bayer, and both are being replaced by internal candidates — with Werner Baumann recently unveiled as the company's next CEO.

Heitmann (pictured) was open about the challenges faced by the German MNC, telling the Holmes Report last year that it needed to improve understanding in international markets. According to German publication PRReport, Heitmann is viewed as a potential candidate for the vacant communications role at Siemens, although this remains unconfirmed. 

"My mission at Bayer is accomplished," Heitmann told the Holmes Report. "And I would like to do something exciting again."

Heitmann initially made a name for himself during a 12-year career at SAP, first as a speechwriter for co-founder Hasso Plattner and later as an advisor to CEO Henning Kagermann, before moving to Shell in 2010, where—as a former engineer, he called on the oil industry to be more honest in its commitment to renewables, and for companies like Shell to make a better case for deep-sea drilling

Preuss first joined Bayer in 1998 as North America media spokesman, before becoming media relations and PR head at Bayer MaterialScience in 2002. In 2005, he left to oversee media relations and PR at Robert Bosch GmbH, before returning to Bayer in 2008 as head of corporate policy and media relations, which became corporate communications in 2015.

Preuss' new role at Bayer covers the company’s internal, external and digital communications, and also includes oversight of Bayer's political communication activities and its umbrella brand.

Germany's second-largest company by market value, Bayer employs around 117,000 people and reported sales of EUR 46.3bn in 2015.