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BMW CEO Milberg Steps Down

May 16, 2002

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Joachim Milberg, the chief executive who extricated BMW from its disastrous purchase of Rover and refocused it on its luxury car business, handed over his job to Helmut Panke on Thursday.

Milberg, a former engineering professor, was a surprise choice in February 1999 when the company’s board dumped Bernd Pischetsrieder over the Rover fiasco. BMW bought the mass-market British automaker in 1994 and poured more than $4 billion into it in a failed attempt to turn it around.

Under Milberg’s leadership, BMW sold Rover and successfully launched a new version of its large 7-series model. One exception to the new focus on its luxury car business has been the introduction of a revamped Mini.

Board chairman Volker Doppelfeld told Milberg, 59, that he had done a ``fantastic job″ and about 4,000 shareholders in Munich gave him a long ovation. The company posted a net profit of 1.87 billion euros ($1.71 billion) last year and increased sales of its mainstay sedans by 10 percent.

BMW has said that Milberg is leaving almost a full year ahead of the company’s mandatory retirement age to avoid speculation over a successor. Milberg also has referred to back trouble requiring surgery in discussing his decision to leave. He told the audience that ``Herr Panke will carry on BMW’s successful course.″

Panke, 55, served as the company’s chief financial officer and set up its plant in Spartanburg, S.C., where it makes sport-utility vehicles.

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