While I have no credibility to remotely be considered a journalist, there is one story that somehow was never really brought to the attention of more than a few industry insiders, and certainly no eyebrows were peaked by any type of law enforcement. This is the story of how one man, the grandson of the acclaimed original Piech of the Porsche – VW families set out to re-glue the separated companies back together and succeeded, until he didn’t.
Let’s go back to 2007 when all was well in the world. As leading patriarch of the Piech family, he was the Chairman of both VW and Porsche, at the time two separate companies. Piech’s dream was always to bring the companies together under one roof, no matter the cost. Here’s the series of events as they unfolded:
- Porsche attempts a hostile takeover bid for VW (Piech is Chairman of both companies)
- The financial crisis hits hard, prohibiting Porsche’s ability to service the debt they took out to overtake VW
- VW ends up taking over Porsche as a result of the debt overhang (green-lit by Piech’s Porsche board) and Piech gets paid out of his Porsche shares
- Porsche ends up in the VW umbrella after all
So to recap: Piech tried to takeover VW via a proxy fight that he was on both sides of, and when unforeseen circumstances (the economic crash) occurred, he somehow spun gold and still ended up with a generous payout from the Porsche deal and got to keep his seat on the throne of the larger VW-Porsche empire.
I’m no expert in fiduciary duty, but I think it’d be safe to say it’s at least a tad strange to see a chairman of the board of two companies engage in a proxy fight in which both sides have vested interests by the man setting up the war. It seems a little like the plot of Westworld.
Fast forward to today, and Piech has since left the company in spectacularly dramatic fashion, after he attempted a coup to oust the CEO, his prodigé Martin Winterkorn, only to see his subjects (board members) turn against him and towards Winterkorn – the ultimate betrayal and arguably a fantastic series end for Westworld.
And to top it all off, Winterkorn ended up leaving the next year as a result of the diesel scandal that has yet to stop embroiling the company since it was discovered in 2016. VW, now a sworn enemy of Piech, is seeking action against the former chairman for his supposed role in the diesel scandal alongside Winterkorn’s and other executives who’ve already been charged or sued.
Safe to say we may never quite know how far Ferdinand Piech went to secure his empire, but safe to say that he did so at great cost. While his legacy will remain that he ruled with an iron fist and reunited the acclaimed automakers VW and Porsche, history will likely remember him as more of a shady conman who was extremely talented at getting his way, until he wasn’t.