top of page

Portrait: the Porsche and Piëch families - Part 3/3

Following the death of Ferdinand Porsche, the Porsche and Piëch clans will wage a war which is this time economic. Equal shareholders since the will of Ferdinand Porsche, his two children and his grandchildren will engage in a saga with twists and turns. His son Ferry, who believed he had inherited the management of Porsche because he developed the first Porsche in history, finds himself confronted with his sister and his brother-in-law. Ferry takes over the Porsche factory in Stuttgart, while Louise inherits the vehicle distribution company located in Salzburg, Austria. Louise's company generating more profits than that of her brother, and her strong charisma, she will impose herself in the decision-making of the Porsche company where all major decisions go through her endorsement. The tension is papable within both families, especially as things start to take a turn for the worse in the 1960s with the rise of the next generation. Ferry and Louise decide, unlike their father, to settle the inheritance problem while they are alive. He redistributes the company's shares in 10 equal parts of 10% between them and their children, the Porsche and Piëch families having 4 children each.

Small children who have become shareholders now want to have their say in the company. Ferry then wanted to impose his son Ferdinand Alexander Porsche on the management, but his nephew Ferdinand Piëch joined the Porsche company as an engineer and just like his mother, he had a strong character, he pushed and developed the company on the only segment of motor racing just like his grandfather Ferdinand Porsche. Ferry's second son also joined the company and the two brothers worked on the 901 project (which later became 911 due to Peugeot's rights to the name) which was a sports car and not a competition car.

Ferdinand Piëch for his part and discreetly working on the creation of a new competition car, the 917. The day the Porsches discovered the 917 project and especially the investment that it generates, they were in complete disagreement , especially since Piëch wanted to produce it for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and that the regulations require the construction of 25 units to be allowed to participate. Louise supports her son and promotes the project. It's the cold war between the Porsches and the Piëches. In 1969, when the 917 took the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Piëches did not want to win only the competitors who were on the starting line, but also the Porsches. On arrival the 917 came first and it was a success across the board.

The Piëches, on the strength of this success, take more business over the business that clashes become so common that the parents decide to reunite the two clans in the family house in Stuttgart and in 1971 bring in an American mediator to help. solve the group problem. But no hearings were successful and Ferry then decided, in 1972, to break his dream of seeing the Porsche company as a family business by making it commercial in nature where all the new directors were people outside the two families, all the members. families leave the company and only sit on supervisory boards, a heavy loss for everyone.

Porsches become rentiers thanks to the royalties and profits from Porsche, while Ferdinand Piëch built his career, first at Italdesign then, very quickly, at Audi, one of Volkswagen's subsidiaries, of which he became chairman of the management board in 1975. , and of which he succeeded in the high-end repositioning. If the contacts between the cousins ​​are almost non-existent, mutual hatred is still present, waiting for only the slightest pretext to explode. This is what happens in the early 1980s, when Ferdinand Piëch has an affair with the wife of one of his cousins, Marlene. A maneuver of rare vulgarity in the eyes of Porsches! It must be said that, since the beginning of the 1970s, Louise's four children and Ferry's four children all have 10% of the shares in the Stuttgart firm. By moving in with Marlène, to whom her husband had to give up 5% of his shares during their divorce, Ferdinand Piëch is seeking to get into the capital of Porsche, estimate Wolfgang and his brothers. True or false, the “Marlene affair” does not help relations between the two branches. 1993. Crowned with his success at the helm of Audi, Ferdinand Piëch becomes Chairman of the Executive Board of the Volkswagen group, which is then going through a serious financial crisis. "In Wolfsburg, they were waiting for me with a rifle, but I didn't give them time to shoot," he said later, speaking of his seizure of power. In fact, the new chairman suddenly replaces all of the group's management and rolls out a new industrial strategy based on pooling the basic elements for all the brands. Authoritarian and picky to the excess, Ferdinand Piëch thus becomes the architect of the spectacular recovery of Volkswagen. Although very low-key, he himself has established himself as one of the most respected figures in the automotive industry in the world. In Stuttgart too, things have changed. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the Porsche house continued to decline, struggling to renew its models and find a second wind. In 1993, the situation of the company became so difficult that the Porsche family decided to call on a manager known for his radical methods: Wendelin Wiedeking. In fact, the man fulfills his mission perfectly, saving Porsche from announced bankruptcy.

In 2005, Porsche became the world's most profitable automaker. Thanks to its billions of euros in reserves, the firm is on the lookout for new development opportunities. It was then that Wendelin Wiedeking, with the support of Wolfgang Porsche, entertained the idea of ​​a “rapprochement” with Volkswagen. Initially, it is a friendly acquisition of equity that it is about, an idea supported by Ferdinand Piëch. But in fact of friendly takeover, it turns out that Wendelin Wiedeking is looking to get his hands on the Volkswagen group and its cash reserves. When Wiedeking had to leave his post in 2009, it was Wolfgang Porsche who found himself on the front line. Elected chairman of the supervisory board of Porsche, he undertakes to take control of the group led by his cousin. This battle, Wolfgang Porsche will end up losing it. Poor maneuver, he is, in fact, far from equaling Ferdinand Piëch. The battle is focused on the famous “Volkswagen law”, a provision which prohibits a shareholder of the automotive group from owning more than 20% of its shares, and which the European Commission has requested to be removed. That it be repealed, and Porsche can get its hands on Volkswagen, thinks Wolfgang Porsche. But it is bad to know Ferdinand Piëch. A formidable tactician, the industrialist strives to mobilize all the staff of his group against the takeover bid. Above all, he secures the support of Christian Wulff, the Minister President of the Land of Lower Saxony, himself a Volkswagen shareholder. It was Wulff who got Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Volkswagen law not be abolished, ruining the hopes of Wolfgang Porsche. In July 2012, having spent considerable sums in its takeover bid, Porsche had to put an end to the operation. Worse still: highly indebted, the Stuttgart firm must ask Volkswagen for a credit line of 700 million euros. Porsche then has only one solution: to unite with Volkswagen. A forced marriage!

Factory, Museum, Porsche Center Stuttgart

Ferdinand Piëch was completely satisfied, he thwarted Porsche's takeover bid for his company. He not only took control of the famous iconic brand which thus created a group with a turnover of 195 billion euros, he has above all taken his revenge on his Porsche cousins, and more particularly on his counterpart, Wolfgang Porsche where the epilogue of a family war that has lasted for decades.

To be continued


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page