HANDELSBLATT EXCLUSIVE

Sources: Audi CEO Leaves Piëch Foundations

Volkswagen – Jahrespressekonferenz
Picture source: dpa

The chief executive of Audi, Rupert Stadler, has resigned his board seats on two foundations set up by Ferdinand Piëch to control a nearly 15-percent stake in Porsche SE, Handelsblatt has learned from people with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Stadler had seats on the board at the Ferdinand Karl Alpha and the Ferdinand Karl Beta foundations. He was considered a close confidant of Mr. Piëch, the former supervisory board chair of Volkswagen.

Mr. Piëch and the Porsche family used the firm Porsche SE to manage their majority stake in Volkswagen.

Mr. Stadler was accused in German court by a former Audi engine developer, Ulrich Weiss, of covering up Volkswagen’s Dieselgate emissions fraud, which his lawyers denied. Mr. Weiss testified Mr. Stadler was aware as early as 2012 of two Audi models bearing software that could turn on and off the full range of emissions controls, which could be used to dupe regulators.

Volkswagen has said its top managers were unaware of the deception until shortly before it became public in the fall of 2015, and have portrayed it as the work of a handful of mid-level managers.

Mr. Weiss is one of several mid-level managers fired by Volkswagen in the wake of the scandal, which saw the automaker falsify emissions levels on up to 11 million cars around the world. The resulting fines and legal settlements have cost Volkswagen billions of euros, and untold reputational damage, and have led to calls for other board members to resign.

The former VW chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, resigned under pressure days after the fraud was exposed by U.S. environmental regulators. At the time Mr. Winterkorn denied having prior knowledge of the illegal software that now threatens Germany’s largest listed company.

Mr. Winterkorn reiterated this position during an appearance in January before a committee of the Bundestag.

In the past, Mr. Stadler has faced criticism that his dual role as CEO of Audi, a VW subsidiary, was in conflict with his position on the family boards of Mr. Piëch, one of VW’s largest shareholders. Mr. Piëch is the grandson of the founder of the forerunner of sportscar maker Porsche, Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the Volkswagen Beetle in the 1934.

Porsche has been a unit of Volkswagen since 2009 and the Piëch family, with their cousins, the Porsches, have controlled the Wolfsburg-based company for much of its post-war history.

Mr. Stadler and Mr. Piëch’s lawyers declined to comment. Mr. Piëch himself was not immediately available for comment.

 

Martin Murphy specializes in the automotive, defense and steel industries. He is originally from London. To contact the author: murphy@handelsblatt.com

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