VW's owner clan sells Porsche design stake ahead of Piech exit

Porsche, the Volkswagen brand that manufactures the 911 sports car, bought the family's 35 per cent stake in Porsche Design.
Porsche, the Volkswagen brand that manufactures the 911 sports car, bought the family's 35 per cent stake in Porsche Design. PHOTO: REUTERS

FRANKFURT (BLOOMBERG) - The billionaire clan that controls Volkswagen sold its shares in Porsche Design as the family's most prominent member prepares to cut ties after a long-running spat.

Porsche, the Volkswagen brand that manufactures the 911 sports car, bought the family's 35 per cent stake in Porsche Design, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. The maker of upscale sunglasses, watches and other merchandise is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Porsche car brand.

The announcement comes days after patriarch Ferdinand Piech agreed to sell most of his shares in the clan's investment vehicle, forcing his relatives to finance the deal. His stake is valued at roughly 1 billion euros (S$1.53 billion), based on the price of the listed preference shares.

In the wake of the diesel scandal, the 79-year-old engineer deepened rifts with his relatives after alleging that his cousin Wolfgang Porsche and other VW supervisory board leaders may have known about the emissions cheating earlier than previous acknowledged. Piech's retreat marks the end of his domination at Volkswagen, a company he led for more than two decades and helped turn into an automotive giant that last year toppled Toyota Motor Corp. as the world's bestselling car manufacturer.

Mr Piech will sell nearly all of his 14.7 per cent holding of the voting shares of Porsche Automobil Holding. The investment vehicle is controlled by the descendants of the creator of the VW Beetle and in turn owns 52 per cent of Volkswagen's common stock.

Porsche Design was founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, a grandson of the Beetle's creator and the designer of the original 911 sports car. The family retained a holding in the company even after the brand was sold to Volkswagen in connection with an aborted attempt at a full takeover in 2009.

"The fundamental strategy of the Porsche Design Group is unaffected by the buy-out," Porsche's chief financial officer Lutz Meschke said. "We will ensure there is a closer link between lifestyle activities and the automotive business."