Stephan Winkelmann left Lamborghini-1

STEPHAN WINKELMANN has been Lamborghini’s highest-profile boss since Ferruccio himself. In between the founder’s surrender of control in 1972 and Winkelmann’s arrival in 2005, the controllers of the purse-strings and the bearers of the ever-present risk tended to lurk in the background and let the car experts get on with it.

So, who were they? First off was one of Ferruccio’s Swiss financier friends, Georges-Henri Rossetti, who took over 51% of the company after Ferrucio gave up the struggle with labour unrest, a cancelled major tractor order and a son with no interest in cars. The remaining 49% was sold in 1973 to another Swiss, Rene Leimer, and in 1974 Ferruccio left the building for good.

The Swiss bosses ploughed a lot into Lamborghini but overstretched themselves, and failing to deliver BMW’s M1 project on time was the last straw. In 1978 Lamborghini was bankrupted, but continued in business under court-appointed accountant Alessandro Artese until, in 1980, the search for a new financier ended with Patrick Mimran, French but living in Switzerland, from a very rich family and just 24 years old.

In 1981 he assumed complete control, which he kept until 1987 when he sold out to Chrysler, having made Lamborghini profitable for the first time. Emile Novaro, Mimran’s man on the ground, became Lamborghini’s president and was much encouraged by Chrysler chief Lee lacocca. But Chrysler itself came close to collapse in the early 1990s, and in 1993 replaced Novaro with an American, TimothyAdams, whose job was to offload Lamborghini. This he did in 1994 to investor Tommy Suharto, son of the Indonesian president.

Suharto and his Megatech company quickly installed ex-Lotus boss Mike Kimberley, but internal conflict reigned and Kimberley left in November 1996, his position taken over by Vittorio Di Capua who had briefly shared the presidency with Kimberley. Concerned by Suharto’s plans for Lamborghini, Di Capua secretly approached the Audi arm of the Volkswagen group, and group chairman Ferdinand PTech sealed the deal in 1998. Audi man Rodolfo Rocchio became Lamborghini chairman, Di Capua continued as CEO until retirement in 1999, to be replaced by former Fiat and Ferrari man Giuseppe Greco. Next came Winkelmann, and the rest you know.