Open hostility at Ferrari

2014 Paris Motor Show: Ferrari’s bosses new and old did little to conceal their differences at Luca di Montezemolo’s extraordinary final press briefing

Luca de Montezemolo

AS LUCA di Montezemolo delivered his last sermon to invited journalists at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, in a grey suit with his legs crossed, his black socks visible as he sipped Italian mineral water from a wine glass, the tension between he and the man who was his boss, Sergio Marchionne, was evident in a remarkable display of hostility.

Marchionne – who will replace Montezemolo as chairman of Ferrari in addition to his responsibilities as head of Fiat-Chrysler – walked into the presentation late, across his subordinate with no acknowledgement or sense of occasion, before sitting at a desk next to him.

Marchionne's posture was of a bored child, his chin resting on his elbow as Montezemolo addressed the mainly adoring journalists in attendance. 

"This is at least for me an important day, as it is my last meeting with you," Montezemolo said. "And, you  know, the life is strange, and life makes surprises to each of us. What is important is to learn and look ahead."

Marchionne didn't know where to look, and in a display of blatant disrespect, turned his back to Montezemolo and began examining a book of leather samples with Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa. The journalists were astonished.

The controversy was fuelled when Montezemolo responded to a question about why he is leaving Ferrari by winking and gesturing towards Marchionne.

"If you have three hours, I will explain,” he joked.

"After 23 years, we are in front of a new era, because for sure this will be a new era with the group, with the flotation, it is time to leave, even because at the end  of the day I am at the end of my long and fantastic trip inside Ferrari."

Not really an answer...

Yet Marchionne butted in when the issue of Montezemolo's departure continued to be discussed.

"There is not a single doubt in my mind that his departure is not as glorious as you want to make it," Marchionne told the media.

"We can build a whole pile of hypothesis and conjecture; at the end of the day, I think Luca and I have come to the conclusion that, as a result of the flotation of Fiat-Chrysler in the US, this is opening up a new page in this organisation. 

"Luca has had a phenomenally impressive career within  Ferrari; he's been the chairman of Fiat for a period of six years; was on the board with me for 12; he has been an integral contributor to the resurrection of Fiat, and has done a tremendous job of leading Ferrari.

“Whatever it is that you're hearing, these whispers – absolute bullshit. Shut off the radio cause you're listening to the wrong station."

While Di Montezemolo said he did not know what he was going to do after leaving Ferrari, it's clear that neither he nor Marchionne – who is providing him with a €23 million severance package – were willing to give a direct answer as to why, and how, the seasoned Italian ended up departing.


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