Ferrari president Montezemolo to leave the company

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Posted: Sep 10, 2014 3:29 PM
Ferrari president Montezemolo to leave the company

MARANELLO, Italy (AP) — After more than two decades presiding over one of the biggest and most successful teams in Formula One, Luca Di Montezemolo is stepping down as president of Ferrari.

The 67-year-old Montezemolo spent 23 years as president of the Italian car manufacturer, and oversaw Michael Schumacher winning five F1 titles and Kimi Raikkonen another.

But a recent decline, culminating at last week's Italian Grand Prix where Ferrari failed to put a car on the podium in its home race for the first time since 2008, led to Montezemolo's departure.

"We are coming out of an awful year because we underestimated the difficulty and the importance of the new motors," Montezemolo said on Wednesday at Ferrari headquarters. "There are all the foundations for relaunching a new cycle in Formula One. There are all the foundations to start winning again.

"We have had extraordinary and difficult moments. I thank the fans and I am convinced that there will be the maximum effort to take Ferrari back to where it belongs."

Montezemolo will officially leave on Oct. 13, about the same time as the stock listing of merged parent company Fiat-Chrysler, and will be replaced by that company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne. Fiat has a 90 percent controlling stake in Ferrari.

Montezemolo will receive nearly 27 million euros (nearly $35 million) in compensation from Ferrari as his severance package.

That figure includes a post-mandate indemnity — which was agreed in 2003 — of 13.7 million euros ($17.7 million), payable in 20 years, as well as the sum of 13.2 million euros ($17.1 million) which is to be paid by the end of January and is "in consideration of his commitment not to engage in activities in competition with the Fiat Group during the period to March 2017."

Montezemolo joined Ferrari four decades ago, brought in by founding father Enzo Ferrari as his assistant. After a brief period away from the company, he returned as president in 1991 and the team won six drivers' titles and eight constructors' titles.

"It's an important day because after 23 years (as president), which have passed very quickly, today I'm presenting my resignation from Ferrari," Montezemolo said at a news conference, often appearing to be struggling to hold back tears. "I'm resigning because I think a very important era for the company has ended. Thanks to the results, thanks to the strength of Ferrari itself, another cycle is opening and I hope it will be even more important, new and different."

On Sunday at the Italian GP, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso retired due to a rare mechanical problem and Raikkonen finished ninth.

Marchionne was clearly frustrated during the weekend and said no one was indispensable, but Montezemolo said he had told Ferrari he was ready to stay on for another three years.

Montezemolo is the second high profile executive to leave the team this year following the departure of team principal Stefano Domenicali in April.

"We need to give credibility to Ferrari on the track. I'm fixed on that," Marchionne said. "We need to return to the top. That will give a support to the rest of Ferrari. Winning on the track is something that is not negotiable."

Despite next month's stock listing, Marchionne said Ferrari would not move its production to the United States.

"There's not the slightest intention of integrating Ferrari into Fiat-Chrysler," Marchionne said. "I want to protect Ferrari's integrity, not let it be contaminated in a mass market car industry. Ferrari's success is due in great part to that.

"The idea that Ferrari could be produced elsewhere is obscene, simply inconceivable."

Montezemolo, who was slated to remain president through 2017, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency of struggling Italian airline Alitalia, which recently joined with Etihad Airways.

"It's a possibility but until mid-October I'm very focused here," Montezemolo said. "Then we will talk about it. We'll see. It's still premature."

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.