The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

Pressure Mounts on Montezemolo

09-09-2014

This article by Rachel Sanderson was posted on the FT Online website

 

Sergio Marchionne has said nobody is indispensable

Sergio Marchionne has said nobody is indispensable

Luca di Montezemolo’s future as chairman of Ferrari has been thrown into doubt following criticism by Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which owns the sports car manufacturer. Criticising Mr Montezemolo’s failure to lead Ferrari to a Formula 1 championship in six years, Mr Marchionne told reporters at an event in northern Italy that: “Nobody is indispensable.”

The statement followed a weekend of mounting speculation about Mr Montezemolo’s future at Ferrari after the team again failed to notch up victory at the Formula 1 race at Monza.

Bankers have considered an exit of Mr Montezemolo could pave the way for a long speculated stock market listing of Ferrari. Analysts at Mediobanca considered Mr Marchionne’s comments as an indication that “change at the helm of Ferrari is likely” despite Mr Montezemolo having been reappointed earlier this year for another three years, after 23 years as chairman.

“We believe that expectations for a Ferrari listing may support the [Fiat] share price,” Mediobanca analysts said.

Fiat has on and off considered a listing of Ferrari since 2005. Mr Marchionne in 2011 said he could “list Ferrari at any time”. He said at that time it could be worth more than €5bn. Fiat owns 90 per cent of Ferrari, with a further 10 per cent owned by Piero Ferrari, the son of founder Enzo Ferrari.

Bankers have considered Ferrari’s listing as a means to reduce Fiat’s debt and improve its credit rating.

Mr Marchionne’s comments come after Fiat last week said its merger with US Chrysler was in the final stages and should be completed by mid-October, which will result in the stock listing in New York. After the merger, Fiat Chrysler could seek to raise capital, according to people at the company.

Ferrari’s sales rose 5 per cent in 2013 to €2.3bn. It sold a total of 6,922 vehicles as net profit increased 5.4 per cent to €246m. The US – where it sold 2,035 sports cars last year, up 9 per cent on 2012 – accounts for nearly a third of its sales and is its biggest single market.

Although Mr Montezemolo’s departure would not affect Ferrari’s exalted status in F1, the Italian team would lose his considerable influence in its unending political battles. He has also been central to discussions about the future of the motorsport series.

Ferrari has suffered a miserable F1 season, which saw the departure of team principal Stefano Domenicali in April after six years at the helm. He was replaced by Marco Mattiacci, ex-head of Ferrari USA, but Ferrari languishes in fourth place in the constructors’ world championship. Their drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are in fifth and 10th place respectively in the drivers’ world championship.

Aristocratic Italian known for his marketing talents

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the aristocratic chairman of Ferrari for more than two decades, is one of Italy’s most recognisable personalities. Mr Montezmolo’s public profile is high enough that – despite his lack of political experience – he was once spoken of in Italy as a possible future prime minister. Hailing from an old, aristocratic Piedmontese family, Mr Montezemolo, 67, is admired in Italian business circles for his strong marketing skills. He fostered his family’s longstanding ties to the Agnelli family, Italy’s de facto royals and the dynasty behind the Fiat empire, coming to be considered as a right hand to Gianni Agnelli and his brother Umberto.
While Mr Montezemolo is best known as Ferrari chairman, a position he has held since 1991, he was chairman of Fiat for six years before the role was taken on by John Elkann, grandson of Mr Agnelli.

He has also been active as an entrepreneur. He founded Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, a competitor to Italy’s national train service Trenitalia, in October 2012. He is vice-president of UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank by assets, and was chairman of Italy’s business lobby Confindustria from 2004 until 2008.

Corriere della Sera newspaper reported on Monday that Mr Montezemolo was “bitter” about Mr Marchionne’s step against him. But if his departure from Ferrari is confirmed, rumour has it he will be back in a new chairmanship soon. He is tipped as a possible chairman of the newly merger Etihad-Alitalia airline.