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MAN nominates VW's Piech, two others to board

From Reuters| March 07,2007

Germany's MAN AG proposed Ferdinand Piech, chairman of Volkswagen AG, for election to the truck maker's board along with two other representatives of MAN's largest shareholder.

The Munich-based company said in a statement today that one current board member, Continental AG Chairman Hubertus von Gruenberg, had stepped down from his post with immediate effect and would apply to the local courts that Audi boss Rupert Stadler should be appointed his successor.

While Stadler is technically then up for re-election to the board when MAN shareholders meet on May 10, investors will have to approve the first time appointment of Piech along with the head of Volkswagen's commercial vehicles division, Stephan Schaller.

The statement confirms earlier reports that Volkswagen would seek three seats on MAN's supervisory board, proportional to its stake of 29.9 percent of the voting rights in the German truckmaker.

MAN also said its chairman, Ekkehard Schulz, would be nominated for a further term on the board. Industry sources said Piech aims to be elected as board chairman at MAN.

Piech is a controversial figure at Volkswagen and more broadly in Germany due to what some observers call his disregard for good corporate governance practices.

He has repeatedly allied with the German engineering union IG Metall and its boss, Juergen Peters, to push through decisions despite management's opposition and cries of protest from institutional investors and shareholder rights activists.

In a November meeting that included just six board members, the Volkswagen chairman succeeded in forcing rival CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder to resign thanks in part to support from three labor leaders, who were angry with the CEO's painful cost-cutting plan that led to thousands of job cuts.

Press reports have said the 69-year-old grandson of VW Beetle designer Ferdinand Porsche been plotting to remove MAN CEO Hakan Samuelsson from his post, possibly seen as an obstacle to a successful merger of MAN, Sweden's Scania and the commercial vehicle activities of Volkswagen.

Earlier today, Porsche AG CEO Wendelin Wiedeking told reporters at the Geneva auto show he expected Volkswagen to wield decisive control in any potential three-way alliance.

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