After last week’s sudden departure of Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech and his wife Ursula from the automaker’s overarching supervisory board, which came after a lost leadership battle with CEO Martin Winterkorn, there were two empty seats that needed to be filled. The automaker has now confirmed that those seats will be filled by 57-year-old Louise Kiesling and 34-year-old Julia Kuhn-Piech.
Kiesling has a background in design while Kuhn-Piech is involved in real estate, and crucially both are part of the Porsche-Piech clan that control 50.7 percent of VW’s voting shares. They also happen to be nieces of Ferdinand Piech.
The supervisory board will be in charge of nominating a new chairman, and with the Porsche-Piech clan occupying half of the 10 seats on the investor side of the board it’s likely any new chairman will be loyal to the family. In the meantime, senior trade unionist Berthold Huber is filling in the role of chairman.
Ferdinand Piech, who still has a lot of sway at VW, is reportedly unhappy with the decision. Germany’s Bild is reporting that Piech is challenging VW's latest decision and has nominated former BMW product chief Wolfgang Reitzle and former Siemens manager Brigitte Ederer for the supervisory board seats, as they have more industry experience. Reitzle is seen as a potential VW chairman, the report said.
Under German law, shareholders, union groups and the company itself are entitled to nominate a new member to fill a vacancy on the supervisory board, through courts. Piech’s only chance in thwarting the latest decision would be to take legal action against his own relatives, something the Bild report says he’s contemplating doing.