Rover crisis: Hard man of BMW also goes

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The Independent Online
THIS IS not the first time that insiders had prematurely crowned Wolfgang Reitzle as the new chief executive of BMW.

Mr Reitzle was seen for many years as the unchallenged "crown prince". But when the succession took place in 1993, he was overlooked for the top job in favour of Bernd Pischetsrieder.

There was a question about his loyalty, amid rumours that he was flirting with Porsche. The owners may have also mistrusted his antagonistic style.

Worse was to follow. After the takeover of Rover, Mr Reitzle was handed the poison chalice. He maintained that Rover could only be run as an integrated part of BMW - in other words, by people from Munich rather than by British managers.

He eventually wriggled out of that assignment, but never wavered in his criticism of the British subsidiary, or of his boss's recipe for success.

By all accounts, Mr Reitzle is a brilliant engineer. He joined BMW after university as a production technology expert. He held several jobs, including head of engine production, head of technical planning, and general manager.

He was only 36 years old when he joined the board, with responsibility for research and development. The technical excellence of BMW cars owes a lot to his vision, company insiders said.

Mr Reitzle never missed an opportunity to point out that his baby, BMW, was growing from strength to strength. Sales and profits of the Munich factory soared, and the cars basked in almost universal accolades.

Nor did he stop reminding whoever would care to listen that the Rover project has been a flop. He continued to advocate limiting the Rover range just to Minis and Land Rovers, and possibly closing Longbridge.

In personality Mr Reitzle is the very opposite of Mr Pischetsrieder.

While Mr Pischetsrieder is something of a quiet eccentric Mr Reitzle is loud and brash, with film-star looks and a life-style to match. He currently lives with the German TV personality Nina Ruge.