ROME (AFP) – Ferrari, a byword for flashy sports cars, hit rough ground Wednesday with the shock announcement that its president of 23 years, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, has been pushed out.
Just days after saying he wanted to stay, Montezemolo – dogged by six years of Formula One racing failure – announced he will step down on October 13 after more than two decades as head of the company.
“This is a huge day for me. Ferrari, along with my family, is the most important thing in my life,” Montezemolo told a press conference.
“Ferrari means culture, it means passion and looking to the future. Ferrari is made up of exceptional men and women, great collaborators, in whose hands I am proud to leave many projects for the future.”
The top job at the Italian Ferrari luxury sports car company will be taken over by the head of parent group Fiat, Sergio Marchionne.
Montezemolo will receive a 27-million-euro ($34.7-million) severance package, including 13.25 million euros “not to engage in activities in competition with the Fiat Group during the period to March 2017”.
The brand is the biggest name in Formula One racing, competing on the Grand Prix circuit with huge success since it started in 1950. The team’s logo of a black stallion against a yellow and red background is instantly recognised by motorsport fans around the world. But its poor performance over the past six years, combined with recent clashes in strategy between Montezemolo and Fiat, had led racing watchers to tip his likely exit.
The decision not to appoint Montezemolo to the new board of the merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also suggested the businessman was on the way out.
Marchionne had said in a statement that the “desire to see Ferrari express its full potential on the track led to certain mutual misunderstandings”.
Ferrari is a subsidiary of the Fiat Group which Montezemolo, aged 67, chaired from 2004 until 2010.