VW fills vacant board seats with ex-chairman’s nieces

Christoph Rauwald
Bloomberg News

Volkswagen AG appointed two nieces of Ferdinand Piech to the supervisory board, maintaining the Porsche-Piech clan’s control of Europe’s largest automaker and all but ruling out that an outsider becomes the next chairman.

Julia Kuhn-Piech, 34, and Louise Kiesling, 57, will fill the seats left open by Piech and his wife Ursula, who both resigned on Saturday after a power struggle. The appointments take effect immediately, the Wolfsburg-based company said Thursday in a statement.

With the new board members, the family once again occupies half of the 10 seats on the investor side of the board, which will propose a successor to Ferdinand Piech as chairman. Berthold Huber, former head of German labor union IG Metall, is filling the post in the interim and will chair Volkswagen’s annual shareholder meeting on May 5.

Piech, 78, a grandson of VW Beetle creator Ferdinand Porsche and the leading figure at the automaker for more than two decades, abruptly stepped down from the board after loosing a power struggle over the future of Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn. Piech’s cousin Wolfgang Porsche and union leaders joined forces to thwart the attempted ouster and instead plan to extend Winterkorn’s contract beyond 2016.

Kiesling is the daughter of Piech’s deceased sister Louise Daxer-Piech. Kuhn-Piech is the daughter of his younger brother Hans Michel Piech, who is also a VW supervisory board member. The appointment of the two Piech family members reflects the delicate balance that exists in the clan’s relations, especially after a rift was reopened in the power struggle.

Finding a chairman that’s acceptable to the family, which controls 50.7 percent VW’s voting shares, as well as labor leaders and shareholders Lower Saxony and Qatar may be a struggle. Stephan Weil, Lower Saxony’s prime minister, said earlier this week that the board will take its time with the decision.

In addition to the two new members, Wolfgang Porsche and Hans Michel Piech, the clan is also represented by Ferdinand Oliver Porsche. Shareholders Qatar and the German state of Lower Saxony each have two seats. SEB AB Chief Executive Officer Annika Falkengren is the only independent board member.

Kiesling studied fashion and vehicle design and is a managing director of a textile manufacturer in Austria. Kuhn- Piech works in real estate and is a member of the supervisory board of the truck and bus unit of VW subsidiary MAN SE, Volkswagen said.