1967 - Ferry Porsche presiding over what looks like a management meeting

1967 - Ferry Porsche presiding over what looks like a management meeting

Here’s Ferry Porsche presiding over what looks like a management meeting. He’s flanked by his oldest son, design director Ferdinand Alexander – or Butzi as most people now call him – and his nephew, technical director Ferdinand Piëch.

On the left, the young man with the very 1960s haircut is Hans Michel Piëch, Ferdinand’s younger brother and opposite him, the only man in the room not called Ferdinand or Piëch, is Heinz Branitzki, the company accountant. The meeting appears to have reached a pause. Chairman Ferry looks quizzical, and well he might. The year is 1967 and he’s having to devote more and more energy to arbitrating disputes between people rather than managing the business. This was the problem with a family firm.

In his will, Dr Porsche had split the company equally between his son and his daughter. It was an arrangement that worked: Ferry had Zuffenhausen, while Louise ran Porsche Salzburg. However, if dividing the spoils two ways was straightforward, the succession was not. Both heirs would produce four children, who if they so wanted, had to be incorporated in the firm. Inconveniently, most of them did.

Integration of the new generation began successfully. Hans Ernst, Louise’s oldest son, joined Salzburg and Butzi came to Zuffenhausen. But then the enfant terrible of that generation insisted on joining his uncle’s engineering firm and it became increasingly clear that Ferdinand’s ambition was unstoppable. An intimidating character even then, he overshadowed Butzi, the heir-apparent more and more, and clashed mightily with production director Peter Porsche. Meanwhile, more Piëchs and Porsches were waiting in the wings, such as 25-year-old Hans, seen here probably ‘sitting in’.

The internecine warfare finally reached a point where Ferry and his sister called enough. At a family gathering at Zell am See in October 1970 – a meeting Ferdinand would later label a farcical affair – it was decided that family members would withdraw, becoming equal shareholders, but no longer automatically having management roles. Professional managers would be hired on merit and Ferry would preside over the Vorstand, the shareholder board.

The one individual who remained a constant all through these changes was Heinz, a man so devoted to his pipe he would, as here, usually have a spare lined up. Recruited from Carl Zeiss in 1965, Heinz, though never a car guy, was always at the centre of Porsche. He would later enjoy a brief place in the sun as interim CEO between Peter Schutz and Arno Bohn, before effectively being pensioned off. Heinz lived on many years in retirement only a few miles from Zuffenhausen, but regrettably he would never talk about his Porsche career.

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