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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BMW Expected to Dump Chairman




FRANKFURT, Germany -- How quickly it has all changed for BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder.


Last September the 50-year-old Bavarian sat atop the automotive world, outmaneuvering Volkswagen AG Chairman Ferdinand Piech for the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand name and promising to build a new generation of top-quality Rolls cars.


But now only half a year later, Pischetsrieder's job is on the line, if local newspapers are to be believed, and the investment community is openly applauding the prospect of his departure.


A trio of newspapers reported that Pischetsrieder may be fired as early as Friday. BMW's supervisory board, reports said, has run out of patience with the chairman's inability to make good on a 1994 decision to buy Rover Group.


And adding insult to injury, investors have given their approval to Pischetsrieder's dismissal, boosting BMW shares as much as 11 percent in electronic trading Thursday. After midday trading, BMW shares were up more than 9 percent at 683.50 euros.


If the media reports are true, BMW isn't commenting, the career of one of Germany's once most highly regarded managers may now be nearly over.


Pischetsrieder, who has spent his professional life at BMW, was an unlikely candidate to lead the carmaker when the previous chairman, Eberhard von K?nheim, stepped down in 1993.


Newspaper reports expect him to be succeeded by Wolfgang Reitzle. The dapper Reitzle, now No. 2 at BMW, was widely seen as the "crown prince" and a shoe-in to take over the company last time around.


But according to industry lore, von K?nheim grew nervous about Reitzle maybe jumping ship to Porsche AG and lifted Pischetsrieder from a board position in charge of production to head the company.


Pischetsrieder didn't waste any time taking BMW in a new direction and maybe sowed the seeds of his downfall.


Only a year after taking over, Pischetsrieder stunned the automotive world, buying Rover, which was allied with Honda.


The move was widely greeted in the automotive industry as a bold step to broaden BMW's product range with a mass market, front-wheel drive model range that would bring technological benefits for the rear-wheel-drive BMW line.


Although Rover was a money loser, most believed that BMW, with its reputation for quality engineering and deep pockets, would have few difficulties in turning Rover around.


Indeed, even as BMW poured billions of Deutsche marks into Rover, most analysts continued to put their faith in Pischetsrieder who kept turning in higher profits and sales.


The purchase even came with a ready-made human-interest story for the newspapers when it surfaced that a distant relation of Pischetsrieder had designed the original "mini," a Rover car with sentimental importance for many British car fans.


And BMW continued to impress the trade industry with cars like the 3-Series sport sedan which has set the standard in the near-executive market segment.


At the same time, Pischetsrieder seemed to be emerging as the perfect man to head a youth-oriented company with a sporty image. It emerged that he preferred snowboarding to skiing and there was even a famous accident in 1995 when Pischetsrieder lost control of a McLaren Formula One sports car while hot-rodding outside Munich.