Just days after all of his chest-thumping in the Monza paddock where he stated he had no intention to leave, Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo has announced he is quitting the carmaker.
The announcement comes after a meeting of the Ferrari board and in the wake of a public admonishing by his own boss, FIAT CEO Sergio Marchionne, who was openly critical of di Montezemolo’s public claims that he was part of the carmaker’s management for the long haul.
Montezemolo was present in Monza and countered rumours that he would be leaving Ferrari by saying he intended to stay and adding “If and when there will be some news about me, I will be the first – I emphasise the first – to let you know”.
It turns out that those comments were not well received at FIAT HQ, with Marchionne uttering the threat that “Nobody is indispensable” and that di Montezemolo’s future lay in FIAT’s hands.
“We are good friends but his statements, these are things I wouldn’t have said myself,” Marchionne said in the Italian press.
“On volume and economic results Luca has done an outstanding job. I [also] consider myself essential, of course. But I also know very well that I am at the service of this company. So to create positions, illusions that one can operate outside the rules, is talking rubbish.
“It’s the same for him as it is for me; we serve the company. When the company has a change of plan, or if there is no longer a convergence of ideas, things change.
“The heart of Ferrari is winning in F1. I don’t want to see our drivers in 7th and 12th place [as was the case at the Italian Grand Prix]. To see the Reds in this state, having the best drivers, exceptional facilities, engineers who are really good, to see all that and then to consider that we have not won since 2008.
“The important thing for Ferrari is not just the financial results, but also it is winning and we have been struggling for six years.”
The final chapter has now been written, with Ferrari issuing a statement announcing his departure with immediate effect.
“This is the end of an era and so 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,” a statement penned by de Montezemolo reads.
“Ferrari is the most wonderful company in the world. It has been a great privilege and honour to have been its leader. I devoted all of my enthusiasm and commitment to it over the years.
“I wish the shareholders, particularly Piero Ferrari who has always been by my side, and everyone in the Company the many more years of success that Ferrari deserves.”
Di Montezemolo cited Ferrari’s plans for a public share offer on the New York Stock Exchange as a trigger for his decision to leave, although there will remain the speculation that he was given a ‘golden handshake’ to exit stage left.
While Ferrari has remained highly profitable – last year’s pre-tax profit was about $490 million – parent company FIAT has considerable debts as a result of Marchionne’s decision to acquire Chrysler. A public floatation was needed to raise cash reserves, but di Montezemolo was openly opposed to this out of fear that it would weaken the Ferrari brand value.
To make the move – as is certainly the case – requires his removal, and so comes the press release confirming that he is moving onwards (most likely to a position as the chair of Italy’s national airline).
One wonders if Ferrari’s decision to appoint a relative unknown figure in Marco Mattiacci – the former head of Ferrari’s North American arm – to the role of Team Principal might indeed be a way of grooming him for a future position as Ferrari’s new figurehead. His connections to North America, where the company plans to list, should not be ignored…
It all begs the question of whether there will be more reshuffling in Ferrari’s ranks. It might not be a surprise to see a Team Principal position become vacant in the near future, and one assumes that a certain Ross Brawn might find his cell phone ringing off the hook…
Image via Gas2