Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 15 News List

VW CEO meeting board members to fight for job


Volkswagen AG chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn appeared before the leadership committee of the automaker’s supervisory board on Thursday to fight for his job amid a power struggle with Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech, according to people familiar with the matter.

The supervisory board group, comprising Piech and five other members, was set to discuss a proposal from the chairman for the future leadership of Europe’s largest automaker, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

A Volkswagen spokesman said the meeting, which took place in Salzburg, Austria, had ended. The company declined to comment further.

“This showdown is absolutely unprecedented,” Evercore ISI London-based analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said. “They have to solve this as soon as possible.”

Winterkorn’s future was called into question after Piech told Der Spiegel magazine on Friday last week that he had distanced himself from his former confidant and no longer wants him as the next chairman. The comments came without explanation and were a surprise blow to an executive that has led the company to record profits and brought it close to overtaking Toyota Motor Corp as the No. 1 in the industry.

The committee usually prepares the meetings of the full 20- person supervisory board, which has the power to hire and fire executives. In addition to Piech, who is also a member of one of the two families that control Volkswagen, the group includes works council chief Bernd Osterloh; his deputy, Stephan Wolf; IG Metall Trade Union Secretary Berthold Huber; Piech’s cousin and a representative of the other shareholder family Wolfgang Porsche; and Lower Saxony Prime Minister Stephan Weil.

Piech has had key power players in Volkswagen turn their back on him since the comments. Osterloh and Weil have stated their support for Winterkorn, and Porsche has said his cousin’s comments are not backed by the entire family. Combined, Winterkorn’s supporters could block an effort to fire him.

Still, without the backing of the chairman, who has steered Volkswagen for more than two decades, Winterkorn will struggle to maintain his authority at the manufacturer, which owns 12 brands and employs more than half a million people.

Porsche chief executive officer Matthias Mueller is seen as the leading candidate to step in as Volkswagen’s chief executive officer because he has the support of the Porsche and Piech families.

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