Ferdinand Piëch will turn 80 next month. Not usually a time for radical life changes, but Mr. Piëch is an exceptional figure. The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, designer of the Volkswagen Beetle, Mr. Piëch is a former VW chief executive and has long been a dominant figure in the group. He personally owns 14.7 percent of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the company of the Piëch and Porsche families, a stake worth around €1 billion, which gives him a 7.67 percent stake in the Volkswagen group.
Over the next few days, Mr. Piëch is expected transfer ownership to other family members. Talks are already at an advanced stage and there is little doubt this is a radical shift for Mr. Piëch. He originally organized a complex structure for his legacy, its shares almost unsellable, held in two separate trusts. This was all done so his heirs would continue to act as trustees for the Volkswagen company, which was founded in 1937.
Volkswagen’s shareholder structure is based on two families: Porsche and Piëch, both originating with Ferdinand Porsche. The two families have first refusal on purchasing Mr. Piëch’s stock, and intend to share it out among themselves, so that the family retains a 52 percent stake. However, although the numbers are unchanged, Mr. Piëch’s departure will mean substantial changes in the families’ role.