"The board has regrettably concluded that Mr Angwald is not the appropriate individual to lead the company and has therefore asked him to step down," Rexam said in a statement yesterday.
Christopher Clark, Rexam's deputy chairman, said: "The board regrets the need to take this step but the decision has been taken in the best future interests of the company."
Angwald joined Rexam in January 2004 and was formally appointed chief executive on the retirement and elevation to chairman of Rolf Börjesson at the company's annual general meeting in May 2004.
Börjesson's elevation runs contrary to the Higgs guidance on corporate governance. This guidance frowns on the elevation of chief executives because they can find it hard as chairman to give up the levers of executive control.
There could be suspicion that this happened at Rexam, though the company insists there has been no clash between the men and that this was a unanimous board decision.
At the time of his appointment, Rexam pointed to Angwald's 'proven leadership qualities' and 'intimate knowledge of consumer products'.
However Angwald has been removed with immediate effect, and has been replaced by Lars Emilson, currently an internal director at the company.
Rexamsaid that Emilson had been responsible for the much of the development of Rexam's beverage can business in recent years, and was instrumental in the successful integration of the PLM, ANC and, most recently, Latasa acquisitions.
"Lars Emilson is a strong leader who is highly respected both within Rexam and throughout the global consumer packaging industry," said Rexam chairman Rolf Börjesson.
"Trading since the half year has been much in line with expectations and the Board reconfirms the view it held at the time of the interim results in August that 2004 will be another successful year for the group."
Indeed, the UK-based packaging group recorded a 14 per cent rise in the first half of the year, with pre-tax profits increasing from £70 million to £80 million (€116m). But sales still fell 1.5 per cent to £1.53 billion, hit by the impact of the weak dollar and the disposal of several businesses.
Nonetheless, the results were solid, given that aluminium prices increased by 20 per cent since the start of the year and the fact that the German beverage packaging market has yet to be restored. Rexam claimed that rising energy costs had been largely offset by average price increases of just under one per cent across Rexam's beverage packaging business.
As a consequence of these measures, Rexam has been able to almost totally avoid the effect of aluminium and energy cost increases this year. Questions will inevitably be asked therefore as to why exactly Angwald was asked to step down.
Pharmaceuticals is a tiny but growing portion of Rexam's business - with sales of less than $100 million a year out of a group turnover of around $6 billion. Pharma has been earmarked for expansion, however, and the company has been growing by acquisition.
Earlier this year, Rexam paid €32.5 million for Plastic Omnium Medical, a company specialising in plastic components for medical devices. The move followed Rexam's purchase of Risdon Pharma, which makes eye droppers, nasal sprays and multidose dry powder inhalers, in June 2003 for €125 million.
Rexam's expansion in plastics is underpinning the move into small, intellectual property-rich segments, including pharmaceuticals.