Porsche CEO Resigns, Merger With VW Inches Closer

July 23, 2009
Wendelin Wiedeking, via Automotive News

Wendelin Wiedeking, via Automotive News

And so it begins: as we mentioned on Monday, this is a big week for Porsche and Volkswagen, as the two German automakers finally take action on their highly anticipated merger. Overnight came news of a major development, indicating that VW's buyout of Porsche is on track and picking up speed: in a surprise late-night meeting, Porsche's Wendelin Wiedeking stepped down from his position as CEO. Holger Härter, Porsche's CFO, has also stepped down.

Both Wiedeking and Härter had expressed vehement opposition to the Porsche/VW merger, and it's not surprising that both have fallen honorably on their swords rather than backing down from their opinions. As an official Porsche statement said, "In the last weeks Wiedeking and Härter have come to the conclusion, that the further strategic development of Porsche SE and Porsche AG is better off, if they are not on board as acting persons." Don't worry too much about the departing duo, though: as parting gifts, Wiedeking and Härter have been given very pretty golden parachutes worth €50 million and €12.5 million, respectively.

As you might expect, Wiedeking and Härter's departure is bound to generate a bit of schadenfreude in the auto world. After all, they're largely to blame for Porsche's current €10+ billion debt and for the company's seriously botched takeover attempt of Volkswagen last year. Their uppance, as they say, has come.

In the meantime, Porsche's CEO slot has been temporarily filled by Michael Macht, one of Wiedeking's fellow board members who has considerable experience on the production end. And back at the ranch, Volkswagen is meeting today to discuss final details of the merger. Still up in the air: the role of Qatar, which had hoped to invest in Porsche AG (the automaker), but may now throw its money behind Volkswagen, or Porsche SE (Porsche AG's parent company), or perhaps it'll just build more oil rigs. Stay tuned: more details are sure to come.

[AutoNews, sub reqd; NYTimes]

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