Fleet News

Boardroom cull sparks takeover rumours

A MAMMOTH day-long meeting at BMW brought unexpected and unprecedented blood-letting on the board which has cast doubt over future plans for Rover. BMW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder and Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, head of market and product, both stood down from the board following a lengthy battle over their differing visions for Rover.

The boardroom cull has sparked rumours that BMW is now ripe for takeover as it struggles to solve its problems at Rover. Pischetsrieder was focussed on investment in Rover, having headed its purchase for some £800 million in 1994. An estimated £3 billion has since been ploughed into the British company.

But a strong Pound and intense competition from rivals have undone much of the hard work in producing new models, including the new 75, with Rover losses rumoured to be more than £300 million last year. This set the scene for a showdown between Pischetsrieder and Reitzle, who is believed to have been convinced the way forward would have been cherry-picking the best brands - MG, Land Rover and Mini - and casting Rover aside.

But last Friday's meeting brought the increasingly public clash to a head, and the appointment of former board member Professor Joachim Milberg as BMW chairman signals an attempt at a clean and level-headed start. The supervisory board at BMW also appointed Carl-Peter Foster, currently head of BMW South Africa, as head of engineering and production, Henrich Heitmann, head of the North and South America sales region as head of sales, and Wolfgang Ziebart as head of development.

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