Montezemolo quits Ferrari

2014-09-10 18:29
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo (AFP)
Rome - The world's most famous prancing horse was set for new management on Wednesday, as Ferrari's chairperson of 23 years, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, said he was making way for Fiat-Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne as of next month.

"This is an end of an era," Montezemolo said in a statement.

"I have decided to leave my position as chairman after almost 23 marvellous and unforgettable years in addition to those spent at Enzo Ferrari's side in the 1970s," the 67-year-old said.

The management shake-up, due to come into effect on October 13, had been widely expected since Sunday, when Marchionne said Montezemolo had done a "great job" in terms of financial results, but criticized Ferrari's recent winless streak in Formula One.

"I am terribly upset by it, we have been seeing it for a long time, it's something that is not right," Marchionne said on the sidelines of a business conference in Cernobbio, northern Italy. "What's important for Ferrari is not just business results, but winning."

Kimi Raikkonen won the last driver's title for Ferrari in 2007, and the team's last constructors' championship dates back to 2008. Ferrari cars have not won a single race since Fernando Alonso claimed the Spanish Grand Prix in May 2013.

"Luca and I have discussed the future of Ferrari at length. And our mutual desire to see Ferrari achieve its true potential on the track has led to misunderstandings which became clearly visible over the last weekend," Marchionne said in a separate statement.

In a press conference, Marchionne said Ferrari had underperformed in races because its engines were not up to scratch, but ruled out making any changes in the team in terms of drivers and management.

"It is absolutely clear that we have an engine problem," he said. "I don't think 2014 will be a great season for Ferrari, we have to put our mind at rest ... we hope for something more next year," he added.

In April, Formula One team principal Stefano Domenicali, who had also been around the team for 23 years, quit. He was replaced by Ferrari's former top manager for the US, Marco Mattiacci, but the change has failed to improve matters.

Speaking alongside his successor at company headquarters, Montezemolo said Ferrari had been penalized by Formula One regulations that prevent mid-season engine tuning. "We hope that this will change," he noted.

He admitted that Ferrari had underestimated the effort they needed to catch up with current Formula One leaders. "Looking at the big structures that Mercedes have, we could have done something more," he said.

Ferrari is run independently, and its road car division is very profitable, despite Formula One struggles. But Fiat-Chrysler ultimately calls the shots over the company, owning 90 per cent of shares, while the rest belongs to the son of founder Enzo Ferrari, Piero.

Marchionne will assume control on the same day the recently-merged Fiat-Chrysler is expected to make its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, as part of a strategy to extend the group's global reach beyond Italy.

He insisted that the Ferrari brand would be kept separate from mass-market products, and pledged to never move production out of the Maranello headquarters. "I don't want to find Fiat pieces on a Ferrari, it would not be a good thing," he said.

Early market reactions were positive. Fiat shares on the Milan stock exchange were up by more than 1.5 per cent in afternoon trading, the best performance of the day.

The outgoing Ferrari chairman - a well-heeled aristocrat who was friends with Fiat's late boss Gianni Agnelli - has been presented in the Italian media as the latest victim of Marchionne's abrasive management style.

The Canadian-Italian manager has won plaudits for rescuing Fiat from near-bankruptcy, and for masterminding its takeover of US-based Chrysler. But he has frequently clashed with trade unions, public officials, and more successful German business rivals.

With reporters, Montezemolo joked that before joining the Fiat group, Marchionne thought that a four-wheel Audi was better than a Ferrari. "I have been totally converted, I do not even know how to spell Audi anymore," the Fiat-Chrysler boss shot back.

Montezemolo left hailing Ferrari as "the most wonderful company in the world," and added: "Together with my family, it was, and continues to be, the most important thing in my life."

The manager has been tipped for a new job: chairman of Italy's flag-carrier Alitalia airline, in which the United Arab Emirates' Etihad has recently agreed to buy a 49-per-cent stake. Montezemolo helped broker the negotiations.

According to the UniCredit Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni, who leads an Italian bank that holds a significant stake in Alitalia, he "could be a good name" for the Alitalia position. But Montezemolo said it was "premature" to talk about his next move.

Read more on:    ferrari  |  motorsport

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