23 years in a day
Maranello, 10th September 2014
It was a day that no one will easily forget. Not the Prancing Horse tifosi. Not the women and men that work in Ferrari. Particularly not Luca di Montezemolo who, after 23 years in the job, announced his decision to step down as Chairman of the company today.
The day began very early. Well before the press agencies made the news public at around 8.50, Montezemolo had already met with the company’s directors to inform them of his decision. He did so alongside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne who takes his place after what the Chairman described as his “last day of school”, October 13th.
The official public announcement came at 14.00 in a packed press room adjoining the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. Before an audience of around 70 international radio, TV and print journalists, Montezemolo attempted to hold his emotions in check as he explained that as one major cycle had ended, and in view of the new and very different season the FCA Wall Street flotation would usher in, it was time to pass on the baton.
The Chairman looked back fondly on last 23 years which he said “went by very, very fast” and thanked all of Ferrari’s staff, particularly those closest to him: Vice-Chairman Piero Ferrari, CEO Amedeo Felisa and Human Resources Director Mario Mairano. There were special words too for Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher, the driver that helped return the Prancing Horse to triumphant form after a long fallow period. Montezemolo also remembered the late Emilio Botin who was not only Chairman of the Scuderia’s sponsor, Santander, but a personal friend and a staunch Ferrari tifoso. He spoke too with great affection of the many, many tifosi who stood by the team even through the most difficult times.
There was time for other memories also, including the call from Enzo Ferrari in 1973 to become sporting director of the team that took Niki Lauda to World Championship victory in 1975, and Gianni Agnelli’s tears of joy when Michael Schumacher won the title in 2000. Montezemolo and Sergio Marchionne also joked about everything from advice on how to dress (“As you can see, I didn’t listen to him,” quipped the Fiat CEO) to the rumours about Montezemolo’s professional future (“I suppose I could always head a major automobile group in Detroit,” he smiled). The Ferrari Chairman was also keen to underscore the uniqueness of the brand and its deep links with the surrounding area. He then announced upcoming exciting news at the Paris Show and celebrations for the Prancing Horse’s 60th year in the United States.
After the press conference, Montezemolo returned to the factory where he met with the heads of the production department. While he had managed to remain composed in front of the world’s press, he did shed a few tears with “his” men.
The Chairman then returned to his office to personally answer the many messages pouring in from all over the world. And, of course, to work. Something he will continue to do until that “last day at school”.