Former Volkswagen chairman Piech in talks to sell Porsche SE stake

Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:20pm EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Former Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) chairman Ferdinand Piech is in talks to sell his stake in Porsche SE (PSHG_p.DE: Quote) in a deal that would shake up the ownership structure of the company that controls VW.

Porsche SE is the group through which the billionaire Porsche and Piech families control 52.2 percent of the voting shares in Volkswagen (VW), which is still dealing with the effects of its diesel emissions scandal.

The families are in negotiations to buy a substantial part of Ferdinand Piech's 14.7 percent stake in Porsche SE, Porsche SE said in a statement on Friday, confirming a report by weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

"At present, it is still unforeseeable whether the aforesaid changes in the shareholder structure of Porsche Automobil Holding SE will in fact occur," the group said in a statement in English.

Volkswagen declined to comment.

The Porsche and Piech families have a right of first refusal on Porsche shares held by Piech, which are worth just over 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) based on current market prices.

If Piech, who turns 80 next month, were to sell his stake, it would mark the end of an era for Volkswagen which he dominated for decades. An industrial scion and engineer, he transformed VW from regional volume manufacturer into a global powerhouse, which owns the Bentley, Bugatti, Skoda, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Audi brands.

The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche - founder of the sports car maker that developed the Beetle under a 1934 contract with the Nazis - Piech turned around VW as chief executive, from 1993, and later as chairman. But since resigning as chairman in April 2015 following a showdown with former CEO Martin Winterkorn, he has become a recluse and unwilling to defend the empire he helped build.

"Piech had no more chance to crown his life's work and has lost most of his allies," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. "Selling off his stake is the most logical step."   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: Ferdinand Piech arrives at the annual shareholders meeting in Hanover in this April 25, 2013 file photo.  REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/Files