July 24th, 2009
08:04 AM GMT
BERLIN, Germany – The takeover war between Volkswagen and Porsche is playing out almost like a Shakespearean Drama. At the heart are two of Germany’s most well known and yet most reclusive industrial families - the Porsches and the Piechs, who incidentally belong to the same family line.
It began with Ferdinand Porsche, the German engineering genius who constructed the first Volkswagen, known at first as the KdF car, and then later as the VW Beetle. Porsche had several children, but two would come to define the family rift we are all now seeing.
Ferry Porsche would go on to manage the Porsche Engineer Bureau and oversee the construction of Porsche’s first own sports car, while Louise Porsche went on to marry Anton Piech and keep a high stake in the then fledgling Volkswagen Auto Company.
Fast forward to today and the main players are cousins Wolfgang Porsche, Ferry' son, who heads the supervisory board of Porsche SE, and Ferdinand Piech, Louise's son, who is at the helm of the Volkswagen board. Both men are involved in both companies, but Piech has been busy building the VW Empire while Wolfgang Porsche oversaw the rise of the tiny sports car maker to one of the most efficient car manufacturers in the world.
Then came Wendelin Wiediking, CEO of Porsche, who had the idea of attempting a hostile takeover. The tiny Porsche would try to take a majority stake in Volkswagen, the largest car company in Europe. Just to put this in perspective, Volkswagen turns out more vehicles a week than Porsche does in a whole year.
The deal failed and Porsche was left with massive debt of more than $10 billion, and now is when Ferdinand Piech saw his chance.
Piech gathered his friends in German politics and applied pressure on his cousin Wolfgang Porsche. After a long battle, Wolfgang conceded defeat. Porsche will probably merge with VW, thus losing much of its famed independence.
There is however some consolation in all this for Wolfgang Porsche. While he lost his top manager Wendelin Wiedeking and has allowed his company to fall into the fangs of Volkswagen, under the new management structure the Porsche and Piech families would hold more than 50 per cent of Volkswagen AG - and thus become more powerful and richer than ever before. Making this possibly one of the most profitable family feuds of all time.
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