Porsche CEO Goes Bye-Bye

Wendelin Wiedeking

Yup, the big drama is over for now, and Wendelin Wiedeking got pushed out, bowing to “mounting pressure,” as Autoweek so cleverly put it. After a brilliant career at Porsche, pulling them out of virtual bankruptcy in 1993 and leading the firm to become the world’s most profitable carmaker, Wiedeking, like so many others, seemed to become a victim of hubris.

Along with Holger Haerter, the CFO who was also fired, and Chairman Wolfgang Porsche, Wendy took the company down the path of financial ruin when he tried to acquire Volkswagen (which now will take over Porsche, ha-ha!) through borrowing, stock options, perhaps some financial chicanery (“complex financial derivatives,” says the NY Times), and opening the door to Qatar to take a large position in the company. When the economic crisis hit, the strategy went into the tank, and Porsche was left holding the debt bag.

There’s no denying, however, that the guy was colorful and cut a wide swath in the European auto business, managing to get press every few days about new cars he brought out—like the Cayenne, Boxster, and Cayman—or about the sturm und drang we recently discussed in this blog. The public squabbles and soap operas produced by the Porsche and Piech clans were surely not helpful to the company’s image or finances.

Ferdinand PiechAnyhow, VW’s chief, Ferdinand Piech, now holds all the cards and has most of the cash. Wiedeking will have to make do with his €50-million severance package, half of which he’s pledged to charity, possibly to make up for his other PR disasters. Rick Wagoner hasn’t done that.

Is Porsche going to do better under the Volkswagen umbrella? Will it be more secure?

—jgoods

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