Oliver Blume, team building car enthusiast behind the wheel of Porsche

Oliver Blume tries to avoid queues, preferring to cycle to the Porsche offices rather than driving one of his company’s sports cars through the traffic in Stuttgart.

But this week, the CEO stood in line. So many dignitaries wanted to have their say on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange for the listing of the carmaker’s shares in advance that Blume’s remarks were interrupted by the start of trading for the day.

It was a rare time management lapse for a manager known by peers for his efficiency and diligence.

Blume will need all his time savvy — along with his consensus-building attitude and “iron will” that employees say lurks beneath his charm — to balance the dual roles of CEO at Porsche and Volkswagen.

Investors were told at the roadshow that Blume, 54, will be able to steer Porsche into the future while overseeing a tectonic shift at its massive, globe-spanning parent company.

But privately there is less certainty.

“Retaining those two roles will be extremely difficult,” predicts a person who worked on Porsche’s public listing and has spent the past month answering questions from investors about the unusual governance arrangements. “These are two complex worlds with . . . complex, different stakeholders involved.”

Blume, the person says, “is really confident that he can handle both roles, but he’s also rational enough that if he finds he can’t handle it, he’ll adapt and keep the VW boss role.”

The Porsche boss has said publicly that there is no timetable for him to give up his old role.

“He doesn’t micromanage, so I think he can handle both,” said an industry leader who has worked with him.

There is precedent for VW executives juggling roles. Herbert Diess, Blume’s predecessor as VW boss, briefly managed the VW brand and the entire company.

However, Blume will have two listed companies to oversee in a mystery commemorating the late Sergio Marchionne, who ran the Fiat group at the same time as newly listed Ferrari.

While Marchionne was a chain-smoking attendant who often just slept in the car between meetings, Blume would return home to see his family on weekends, even during the busiest times he was preparing for the IPO. But detailed responses to “extensive material” sent by advisers on Friday always trickled back over the following two days.

Balancing the two roles also requires the ability to take large numbers of workers on a journey that will result in huge workforce shifts.

His composure is recognized by all who have worked with him.

Blume was one of the driving forces behind Porsche’s deal to set up a joint venture between top brand Bugatti and Rimac, the Croatian hypercar and technology group.

Group calls throughout the two-year process resulted in more than a hundred participants, some with wildly different ideas for the brand. But the deal came about through the soup of ideas.

Only once, during the long history of the Porsche IPO, did the consultants see the slightest hint of pressure.

Blume learned he would rise to the VW position while juggling the sports scar job just before unveiling a corporate strategy that underpinned Porsche’s IPO, which had been in the works for weeks

“He wasn’t as pleasant as he used to be,” said a person who worked closely with him at the time. “But he never lost control.”

But when the PowerPoint slides finished, at the end of the day, Blume gathered the employees to thank them for their work over a beer in the office — which insiders said wasn’t unusual after significant events.

A friend remembers how, at the end of a lavish motorsport party that took place a few years ago near the company’s headquarters, Blume came onto the stage at 2 a.m. to thank the Porsche caterers individually.

People who remember leading VW in years past note that his approach couldn’t be further from that of longtime VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, who used to have top-notch wine delivered to his top table at official company dinners.

Born in Braunschweig, the closest German city to VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Blume studied mechanical engineering at the city’s Technical University.

He joined Audi as an intern in 1994 and worked his way up to the top ranks in the VW Group, including as production manager for the Seat brand in Spain, where he still has a home.

Renault boss Luca de Meo, who had worked with Blume during his time at Seat, described him as “very down to earth and very approachable. . . a normal guy who doesn’t act like a superstar.”

Blume was “liked by people because he has a very calming character” and “fits the culture of the country [Volkswagen] group,” he added.

In 2015, he was appointed CEO of Porsche, the money-spinning jewel of Volkswagen and the crown jewel of the Porsche and Piech family that control the group.

In Stuttgart he became close to Wolfgang Porsche, who was very interested in his family business.

Volkswagen executives are often overthrown either from above by the family or from below by the works council, so powerful many investors joke that it runs the company.

Porsche employees point to the brand’s close-knit management team and a “performance culture” nurtured by Blume as an indication of his morale-boosting approach.

A supplier who works closely with Porsche described Blume as very focused in meetings. At a time when many executives are permanently connected to their smartphones, Blume was always “in the room”.

“What I like about him is that he’s really there and paying attention,” said the person who has met many industry executives.

People who have seen Blume behind the wheel of sports cars describe him as an “excellent driver” who can effortlessly control drifting vehicles, even in smoking tires.

The company’s investors will expect him to show similar nerves in the coming months.

https://www.ft.com/content/44ee53cd-2758-47f4-b146-a7d110de32a4 Oliver Blume, team building car enthusiast behind the wheel of Porsche

Adam Bradshaw

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