FRANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – The chief executive of Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE> said Luca de Meo, who stepped down as chief executive of the German carmaker’s Spanish Seat brand this month, was probably in talks with French carmaker Renault <RENA.PA>.
The Italian-born de Meo has served as chairman of Seat’s executive committee for four years, overseeing a resurgence in the Barcelona-based company’s sales and boosting its prominence within the Volkswagen group.
“We are very, very sad that Luca is leaving us because he played a very important role in the group,” Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.
“He did a great job with us but we accepted that he’s going to leave and he’s probably in talks with Renault, that’s what he told us,” Diess said.
Renault declined to comment on the matter on Thursday.
Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said this week that a new CEO would be named shortly.
De Meo has been in talks with Renault but faced a potential hurdle over a stringent non-compete clause in the contract, sources told Reuters previously.
The French state, which has a stake in Renault, has given its tacit backing to de Meo’s possible appointment.
“There’s no reason the state would oppose de Meo’s nomination,” a source at the economy ministry said.
In December, Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia cited anonymous sources as saying Renault – in the wake of the high-profile arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn – had offered de Meo the job of chief executive.
Renault and its Japanese partner, Nissan Motor <7201.T>, last week rejected media reports that their 20-year-old alliance was in danger of being dissolved.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Tom Sims in Frankfurt and Sarah White in Paris)