Bernd Pischetsrieder, the chairman, was a softly spoken Anglophile, accused by his German colleagues of having been too kind to Rover's British management. Wolfgang Reitzle, the sales and marketing manager long seen as Mr Pischetsriede's successor, was known as a brilliant engineer with a brash personality.
British trade unions said they were "dismayed" Mr Pischetsrieder was leaving, but "relieved' that Dr Reitzle would not be replacing him.
Mr Pischetsrieder joined BMW in 1973 and rose quickly through the ranks, taking over the reins in 1993. Within a yearhe stunned the industry by buying Rover, then allying with Honda. This was widely greeted as a bold step to broaden BMW's product range.
Although Rover was a money-loser, most believed BMW would have few difficulties in turning it around. Indeed, even as BMW poured billions of marks into Rover, most analysts continued to put their faith in Mr Pischetsrieder, who kept turning in higher profits and sales. Last year, though, BMW believed he had lost the plot. Despite mounting evidence of problems at the British plants, which he concealed from his board, Mr Pischetsrieder would not contemplate a tougher line with British managers.
The recent revelation that profits fell last year, despite a record turnover, appeared to seal his fate. As rumours spread about his imminent dismissal, Mr Pischetsrieder experienced the final humiliation: BMW share prices soared by 7 per cent.
Dr Reitzle was seen for many years as the unchallenged "crown prince" to BMW. But he was overlooked in 1993 in favour of Mr 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.
Then, after the takeover of Rover, Dr Reitzle was handed the poisoned chalice. 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.
Dr Reitzle also never missed an opportunity to point out that his baby, BMW, was growing from strength to strength.