Martin Leach could head Maserati as soon as early May, sources close to the matter told Automotive News Europe.


Leach, who in August 2003 was ousted as Ford of Europe president and chief operating officer, was Fiat Group CEO Giuseppe Morchio’s first choice as new CEO for Fiat Auto. But Leach was unavailable at the time because Ford refused to release him from a two-year non-compete clause.


Morchio ended up choosing Herbert Demel for the post. In January 2004, a Detroit court ruled that Ford had fired Leach, therefore the non-compete agreement was unenforceable. Since then, Leach is free to work for another automaker.


Last week, the two sides dropped lawsuits in Germany, but Leach’s case against Ford is likely to go to trial in Detroit. He is seeking damages from his former employer. Fiat and Maserati refused to comment.


Leach told Automotive News Europe: “The speculation is inevitable and continues. At the appropriate time I will make an announcement. I have always said it’s my intention to get back into the automotive business. I wouldn’t like to put a specific date on it.”


Automotive News also reported that Fiat Auto had poached Volkswagen‘s director of quality and engineering in America, Stefan Ketter, to oversee quality, which has been fiercely criticised by customers.