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FORTUNE Names European Businessman Of The Year - Why Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking Is A Winner

    London (ots) - This week FORTUNE magazine names Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking as its 2003 European Businessman of the Year. Since taking over as CEO of Porsche in 1992, Wiedeking has transformed the company from a struggling boutique carmaker to the high-performance money machine it is today. Porsche's operating profits as a percentage of sales are now the highest in the industry-13% vs. 8% for No. 2 BMW-and during its last fiscal year, the company's revenues rose 9.4%, to $4.8 billion, while profits shot up 40%, to $817 million.  Under Wiedeking's direction, Porsche has enjoyed nine years of increased profits, even during turbulent economic times.

    Stubborn, pugnacious, and forthright, Wiedeking has set his own course. He has turned down government subsidies, ruled out stock options for his executives, vetoed cash rebates on cars, and decided against listing on the New York Stock Exchange because he thought a new law requiring senior executives to swear to the accuracy of financial reports was stupid. "Wiedeking goes against the stream and is obstinate about keeping his direction," says Hans Riedel, head of sales and marketing at Porsche. "That makes him different from the rest of management. His is fast, impatient, strict, and stubborn."

    The son of a construction engineer, Wiedeking grew up "poor, smart, and driven," as one associate told FORTUNE. He went to work at Porsche in 1983, quit five years later to get a broader range of experience, then returned in 1991 to run the production and materials department. After several trips to Japan to study production techniques, he came up with a plan to increase productivity by 30% over the next three years. "He is very tough on timing, schedules and money," says Porsche's R & D head Wolfgang Duerheimer. "The whole management team runs on personal targets agreed annually with him. He is relentless. He is a dedicated team player, but at no time during the year is there a question who is the leader of the company, who makes the final decisions."

    After the successful launch of the Boxster in 1997, which now accounts for 40% of Porsche's unit sales worldwide, Wiedeking turned his attention to the 2003 launch of the Cayenne. This four-door, four-wheel-drive, off-road vehicle sends the company in a new direction and has been the subject of intense debate within the industry. Porsche owners fear that Porsche is compromising its heritage as a maker of exclusive sports cars. Wiedeking admits the decision was not easy but says that "now everybody at Porsche is happy with the Cayenne.  It rides like a Porsche and drives like a Porsche. It is 100% Porsche." Launched in Europe in December and due to be on sale in the U.S. in March, the Cayenne has already sold out its first year's production of 25,000 vehicles. "To survive in the hostile world of automobile manufacturing," Wiedeking tells FORTUNE, "we have to be different and know what the big cats rouse themselves and set forth to satisfy their hunger."

    FORTUNE, part of Time Inc., is the global leader in business, known for its unrivalled access to industry leaders and decision-makers throughout the world. FORTUNE's European edition, based in London, is dedicated to covering European business from a trademark global perspective. With a circulation of 100'000 FORTUNE is one of the fastest growing magazines in the world. Founded in 1930, FORTUNE has grown to a worldwide circulation of over one million and a readership in excess of five million.

ots Original Text Service: FORTUNE Europe Internet: www.newsaktuell.ch

Contact: Emma Gilpin Director of Public Affairs FORTUNE Europe Phone:  +44/207/322'11'93 Mobile  +44/7802/955'243 mailto: emma.gilpin@timeinc.com

Heather Tomlinson PR Manager FORTUNE Europe Phone:  +44/207/322'10'34 Mobile  +44/7734/726'62 mailto: heathertomlinson@timeinc.com

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