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Porsche boss quits amid tie-up moves

IMMEDIATE EFFECT: Chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking and chief financial officer Holger Haerter are leaving Porsche in the wake of a power struggle with Volkswagen

AFP , FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking poses beside a Porsche GT2 at the Frankfurt International Auto Show in Germany on Sept. 11, 2007.

PHOTO: REUTERS

German luxury car maker Porsche opened the door yesterday to a landmark investment by Qatar ahead of a likely tie-up with Volkswagen and said its chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking was stepping down.

Porsche’s supervisory committee “unanimously gave power to the management to seal the discussions” with the Gulf state for it to take a stake in the firm, a statement said.

This paves the way for a tie-up with its giant rival, Volkswagen (VW), Europe’s biggest car maker, it said.

Another statement said later that Wiedeking and financial director Holger Haerter would both resign “with immediate effect.”

Wiedeking — said to be the best-paid boss in Germany — was to get a leaving payment worth 50 million euros (US$71 million), of which half would go to a “social foundation.”

Porsche also said it would seek to raise at least 5 billion euros in fresh capital beyond what Qatar might bring to the table, without saying who would take part in that increase.

The decision was taken at a late night meeting of the supervisory committee that began on Wednesday in Weissach near Stuttgart, Germany, one day ahead of schedule, in a bid to seal a historic alliance with VW, the biggest European car maker.

“The basis for the creation of an integrated group between Porsche SE and Volkswagen AG has thus been laid,” said Porsche, the builder of the 911 sports car.

The announcements were in line with plans prepared by Wiedeking for the company, which owns about 51 percent of VW, to pay off at least part of its roughly 10 billion euros in debt.

The statement that announced Wiedeking’s resignation said both he and Haerter considered the step “a significant contribution to the appeasement of the situation and to support the forming of an integrated car manufacturing company” with Volkswagen.

A power struggle between Wiedeking and the head of VW’s supervisory board, Ferdinand Piech, had tarnished both companies, and was said to be blocking a deal with Qatar.

Porsche production chief Michael Macht, 48, is to succeed Wiedeking, the company said.

Meanwhile, Porsche’s 12-member supervisory committee, which had at first planned to meet later yesterday, will examine two competing offers to ensure its future.

The first offer was designed by the Porsche management and Wiedeking. That proposal calls for Qatar to take a major stake in Porsche and to buy VW stock ­options owned by Porsche.

The second offer came from VW, which would buy Porsche’s core automaking activities, making it VW’s 10th brand, with Qatar possibly investing in the integrated company.

A meeting of VW’s surveillance committee was scheduled for last night in Stuttgart.

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