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Short sharp and brutal: Di Montezemolo out at Ferrari, Marchionne expected to take over

Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo ended days of speculation about his future by this morning announcing that will step down from his role at the comp...

Short sharp and brutal: Di Montezemolo out at Ferrari, Marchionne expected to take over

Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo ended days of speculation about his future by this morning announcing that will step down from his role at the company, thus ending a 23-year tenure at the helm in Maranello. This followed a Ferrari board meeting this morning.

Di Montezemolo’s position was the subject on much rumour over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, to the degree that he was forced to call a press conference at which he strenuously denied suggestions that he would depart the team.

Yesterday there was a meeting of the Philip Morris main board at Maranello at which Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was present. Marchionne and Montezemolo met for 90 minutes, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The break with Montezemolo is sharp and brutal; the Italians have a phrase for it, 'rompere la barca" which means to "break the boat", in other words, short, sharp and brutal is the best execution.

It's a tough way to go out for a man who has given so much to Ferrari over 23 years; 14 world championships in F1 and record sales figures year after year, as well as an expansion of the brand into theme parks and luxury goods, bringing in tens of millions. But Marchionne and he have very different views on what to do next with the Ferrari brand and Marchionne took the opportunity after Ferrari's miserable showing at Monza last weekend to make some tough criticisms of the F1 team's failure under Montezemolo to win a title since 2008.

However, in a statement issued this morning the Ferrari boss said he will leave the team and he referenced Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ plans for stock market floatation as the reason for his departure.

“Ferrari will have an important role to play within the FCA Group in the upcoming floatation on Wall Street. This will open up a new and different phase, which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the Group.

“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.”

It is expected that Marchionne, who was heavily critical last weekend of Ferrari’s recent F1 performance, will take over as CEO of the company. His first public appearance in the role will be the Paris Motor Show on October 1.

According to insiders, Marchionne also visited Marenello on Monday for a deal-making meeting with Di Montezemolo with the Ferrari chief demanding a settlement rumoured to be in the hundred of millions of euros.

How a Marchionne regime might affect the team structure is now open to question. It has been suggested that the team will seek the return of Ross Brawn and a further elevation in responsibility for James Allison.

It will be another disconcerting moment for Fernando Alonso, who has committed himself to Ferrari until the end of 2016 and yet he has seen the departures of Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo in just five months.

Also one of his and Montezemolo's most passionate supporters died today; Emilio Botin was the boss of Banco Santander and sponsoring Alonso and McLaren and more recently Ferrari was part of his strategy for turning the bank into a global player.

Montezemolo is expected to perform some function on the new Etihad Alitalia board, the Abu Dhabi owners of Etihad which recently rescued the Italian flag carrier, are big admirers of Montezemolo. He may well find his future lies to the East.

[Updated by James Allen]

 
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