BMW chief replaces British chairman at Rolls-Royce

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The Independent Online

Tony Gott, the chairman and chief executive of the luxury car maker Rolls-Royce, was ousted from his job yesterday and replaced by a senior executive from BMW, the German motor manufacturer that owns the marque.

Tony Gott, the chairman and chief executive of the luxury car maker Rolls-Royce, was ousted from his job yesterday and replaced by a senior executive from BMW, the German motor manufacturer that owns the marque.

The surprise move comes 17 months after BMW took full control of Rolls-Royce and launched a new version of the car, the Phantom, from a purpose-built factory on the Goodwood estate near Chichester.

Mr Gott, 48, joined Rolls-Royce in March 2002 from its sister company Bentley, where he had been chief executive. A statement last night from BMW said that the company had accepted the resignation of Mr Gott but failed to explain why he was leaving.

He has been replaced by Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, a senior marketing executive at BMW who led the project to relocate Rolls production from Crewe to Goodwood and who set up the secret design team to develop the new Phantom.

A BMW spokesman in Munich maintained last night that it had been Mr Gott's decision to resign. "We did not ask him to resign. It was his personal decision. The first we were aware of his intention to resign was when he told us this morning."

When asked how it was that BMW had been able to replace him as chairman within hours, the spokesman replied: "It was lucky that Mr Kalbfell was available for the job, even though from the outside I agree that might look strange."

Mr Gott is not understood to have another job to go to. He is the second chief executive to quit Rolls-Royce since the Rolls and Bentley brands were sold by Vickers in 1998 and then carved up between BMW and Volkswagen. Graham Morris, the chief executive at the time, resigned on principle, having promised the workforce that the two brands would never be split up.

Mr Gott is not the first UK car executive to fall out with BMW. John Towers, the chief executive of Rover, quit not long after BMW bought the business in 1994.

A BMW spokesman insisted it was perfectly happy with the performance of Goodwood. He said sales of the Phantom were on course to reach their target of 1,000 this year and production was going to plan with four cars being built a day.

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