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Porsche axes CEO, sets stage for VW merger

Porsche axes CEO, sets stage for VW merger
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First Published: Thu, Jul 23 2009. 04 38 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Jul 23 2009. 04 38 PM IST
Stuttgart: Sportscar maker Porsche conceded a months-long power struggle to mass-market rival Volkswagen by axing its chief executive and said it would raise at least €5 billion in equity as the two prepared for a merger.
After an all-night meeting of its board of directors, Porsche said Wendelin Wiedeking, Germany’s best-paid executive and its CEO for the past 16 years, along with finance chief Holger Haerter, would quit the group immediately.
Their hasty exit will be sweetened by payoffs of €50 million and €12.5 million, respectively.
Wiedeking, who had opposed selling Porsche to Volkswagen, which would have helped the company reduce the debt he had run up in a botched attempt to take over VW, will be succeeded by Porsche’s production head Michael Macht, the board said in a statement early on Thursday.
The meeting of the non-executive directors, which include the Piech and Porsche families that between them control Porsche, approved Wiedeking’s proposal to raise fresh equity — either in cash or through a contribution in kind — and endorsed talks to sell a stake to the Gulf state of Qatar.
“This should lay the foundations for the creation of an integrated automobile group consisting of Porsche SE and Volkswagen,” Porsche said.
It was unclear from Porsche’s statement who would contribute to the capital increase and whether it would be taken up by Qatar. A Porsche spokesman declined to comment further.
The board’s unanimous approval signals that the powerful Porsche and Piech clans may be open to surrendering some of their influence at the maker of the 911 sports coupe.
Between them they control 100% of Porsche’s voting shares and have resisted selling a stake to an outsider.
At 1:50pm IST, Porsche shares were up 1%, while Volkswagen’s were down around 3%, compared with a 0.8% fall in the DJ Stoxx auto index and a flat German market .
Joining Forces
A source at Volkswagen, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was still open whether oil-rich Qatar would take a stake in the Porsche SE holding company or directly in Volkswagen, or in both groups.
The issue was due to be discussed by Volkswagen’s own board of directors, which gathers for an extraordinary session on Thursday in Stuttgart, where Porsche’s Zuffenhausen headquarters are based, rather than its own headquarters in Wolfsburg.
Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, declined to comment.
The moves came as Porsche enters the final stretch of negotiations with Volkswagen to create what both sides have called an “integrated” auto group, in which Porsche would essentially become the 10th brand in Volkswagen’s sweeping automotive empire.
Porsche SE, the holding company that controls sportscar maker Porsche AG, needs to bolster its finances after accumulating more than €10 billion in debt through its botched attempt to seize control of VW.
Porsche was forced to abandon attempts to win control over 75% of VW, leaving it with a stake of nearly 51%. The failed takeover attempt opened the door to Ferdinand Piech, VW’s powerful chairman and himself a part-owner of Porsche, to turn the tables on Porsche.
The Porsche and Piech families had been at loggerheads for months over how to resolve the company’s debt woes and the role VW would play. Piech has pushed for VW to take over Porsche, on condition that Porsche fixes its finances first.
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First Published: Thu, Jul 23 2009. 04 38 PM IST