Editorial: Volkswagen's Piech Blackmails Porsche's Wiedeking: Deal by Monday or Die

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

A week ago, we predicted that Volkswagen, buoyed by stellar numbers, would soon swat nuisance Wiedeking once and for all. It didn’t take long. Ferdinand Piech, chairman of the supervisory board of Volkswagen and co-owner of Porsche, pulled out a big gun and put it to the head of Wendelin Wiedeking, CEO of Porsche (and theoretically Piech’s employee). Piech said (we are paraphrasing in the interest of brevity): “Say uncle by Monday. Or you’re dead.” Nice family.

According to Der Spiegel, VW and the state of Lower Saxony set Wiedeking a deadline. If he doesn’t accept the offer by Monday, Porsche’s already dire financial situation will become untenable.

The joint ultimatum goes like this: VW buys 49 percent of the Porsche AG for anywhere between €3 and €4 billion. The money goes to the Porsche Holding, of which Piech owns a good chunk. As a next step, the Emir of Qatar will buy the options for 25 percent of VW stock, which are held by the Porsche Holding. Then, VW and Porsche will merge.

When everything is said and done, the Porsche/Piech families will end up owning more than 40 percent of VW-Porsche, Lower Saxony will keep its 20 percent, Quatar will have 15 percent, another unnamed sovereign wealth fund (any guesses?) will hold five percent. Less than 20 percent will be publicly traded, which should keep the stock scarce and high.

This plan is the joint work product of VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, VW CFO Hans Dieter Pötsch, Lower Saxony’s Premier Christian Wulff and of course Ferdinand Piech. Der Spiegel didn’t name sources for the story. The details of the transaction are fine grained. There must be a big leak in the executive washroom on the top floor of the Volkswagen Hochhaus.

What if Wiedeking says no? Will he find the head of a horse in his bed? This is Germany, and the dealings are more subtle: If he says no, VW will recall its €700 million loan they had given Porsche last March to save them from bankrutptcy.

Should it come to that, the Emir of Qatar will walk. He made clear that he’s only interested in a Porsche-VW company where the owners share a common goal and are off each others’ throats. With the Emir gone and the loan recalled, Porsche AG (the car company) is DOA. If Wiedeking gives in, his job is DOA.

The story jibes with the information collected by the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Bankers told the SZ that Qatar has its eyes on big Volkswagen. They were only talking to little Porsche to get their hands on the VW options. To sweeten the deal, Qatar could deliver a chopped head to Wolfsburg: Wiedeking’s. Qatar doesn’t want to “fight with Wiedeking against the rest of the world.” To win over Piech and Lower Saxony, Wiedeking has to go. Judging from the ultimatum, Piech, Lower Saxony, and Quatar are already in agreement.

There is no other white knight that may ride to Porsche’s rescue. Daimler was rumored to be interested. Today, Daimler’s Zetsche gave Die Welt an interview and Porsche the cold shoulder: “If we would be interested in Porsche, we would tell them.” And: “Porsche is closely integrated with Volkswagen’s activities. It doesn’t make sense contemplating to replace this integration with another one.”

Zetsche also intimated that Porsche had leaked the possible link-up with Daimler: “I can understand that spinning the same story again and again can get boring. One likes to drop other names.” In other words: Porsche, get lost. Daimler has its own problems.

So what’s left for Porsche? All they can do is fume.

“Porsche’s chairman is furious with Volkswagen AG. Wolfgang Porsche said in a statement Saturday that the sports car maker would not be “blackmailed” into a merger with VW,” Automotive News [sub] writes.

More than miffed, Wolfgang Porsche flames in the direction of Wolfsburg:

We are deeply concerned and irritated by the wording of the ultimatum. The 21st century is not the time for ultimatums. We wonder what the whole matter is really about and whether the focus is still on our common cause at all.

We will not give in to such pressure or blackmail. Such action does not help anybody. It is detrimental to the entire cause. This is not the way to support and uphold common interests.

We sincerely hope that the perpetrators of the ultimatum, in consideration of our common interests, calm down again and follow up their proposals in internal discussions and not through headlines. We are open to such talks at any time.

The missileve was co-signed by Uwe Hück, Wolfgang Porsche’s deputy on the board and representative of the worker’s council. Workers and managers, unite! They must have been close to tears when they wrote this. All smugness is gone. The strongly worded protest confirms that Der Spiegel has its details right.

On Friday, Porsche had bragged it was close to reaching a deal with Qatar. At the same time, Qatar, Piech, and Lower Saxony got a little cozier. Now, all that’s left to Porsche is to whine and to invoke noble principles. It won’t work.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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2 of 21 comments
  • U mad scientist U mad scientist on Jun 29, 2009
    I think Porsche has always been too small and their profits too dependent on a “good economy” to really take over VW. All their money came from unreal “Wall Street” profits… and we know where they went. If they really were rich they didn’t need no stinkin loan… The same lesson was perfectly taught during the net/telcom boom a decade ago and likely countless times before. The only principles Machiavelli needed were that history repeats itself so you really only need to learn it once.
  • Amca Amca on Jul 01, 2009

    Overall, I don't care how this comes out. Just so long as they don't f*ck up the 911.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.