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Schaeffler family turns to former Ford and BMW executive

Family-controlled Schaeffler Group has chosen one of Germany's most experienced executives to lead the supervisory board of Continental, the larger rival it took over last year.

Wolfgang Reitzle, currently chief executive of engineering and industrial gas company Linde, will take up the role of chairman of the supervisory board if he is appointed to the board of Continental, according to a statement on Schaeffler's website.

Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, owner of Schaeffler, said: "We are very pleased that we have been able to persuade Professor Reitzle to take on this challenging mandate. He is the ideal person to tackle the tasks ahead at Continental AG. His profound knowledge of the industry and his international entrepreneurial experience are excellent prerequisites for this post. We have complete trust in him."

Sixty-year-old Reitzle, who has previously worked in a senior capacity at family-controlled Ford and BMW, will replace Rolf Koerfer who resigned as Continental chairman last month after a boardroom spat with Schaeffler, in which Continental's CEO was ousted.

He will have to grapple with managing the wishes and expectations of Maria-Elisabeth and her son Georg, who both took up seats on Continental's board in January (Click here to read our coverage of the story). Although he is being portrayed as a neutral figure who will smooth relations between the family and Continental, it is understood that Reitzle is in fact close to Maria-Elisabeth.

Since taking over Continental, Schaeffler has seen its debt load rise to a staggering €12 billion, but it is adamant that it will succeed in making a success of the merger that has been badly hit by the economic crisis of the past 12 months (Click here to read our coverage of the story).

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