Volkswagen’s powerful ex-chairman Ferdinand Piech, credited with the carmaker’s rise from the brink of bankruptcy to world leader status, has died aged 82, his wife said Monday.
“My husband… died suddenly and unexpectedly on August 25” after a life “marked by a passion for cars and the employees who build them,” Ursula Piech said in a brief statement sent by her lawyer to AFP, confirming earlier German press reports.
According to report Piech died Sunday night at a hospital in Rosenheim in Bavaria, where he was admitted after collapsing shortly after 7pm on Sunday, after arriving at a Bavarian gourmet restaurant in front of his wife.
The billionaire leaves behind his second wife, Ursula, 13 children from four relationships, and a fortune estimated at €1.1 billion earned in a career filled with more triumph and treachery than many Shakespeare plays.
Piëch was born in 1937 in Vienna into the Porsche family, grandson of company founder Ferdinand, the brains behind the Nazi-era Volkswagen Beetle.
After studying motor engineering he joined the Porsche company in the 1960s and hoped the Porsche 917 racing car project he instigated, and which won Le Mans in 1970, would see clinch him the top job.
But relatives shunned him and he left in 1972 for the VW group. There he transformed the Audi brand, letting it play catch-up with rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz by offering innovations like permanent four-wheel drive and TDI turbodiesel.