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GERMANY/US: Lieb firing reasons emerge in media

By Graeme Roberts | 20 October 2011

A German newspaper has reported that Ernst Lieb, the former president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz USA who was dismissed Monday, was fired after repeatedly flouting rules governing the use of company funds and influence.

The New York Times said a report in Handelsblatt said Leib leveraged his position within the company for private expenditures, paying golf club fees through Daimler and that he granted rentals of vehicles in exchange for flight upgrades. The report also said he used corporate funds to build his house in the New York region; the corporate headquarters of Mercedes-Benz USA are in Bergen County.

“Ernst was repeatedly warned, but he did it again,” an unnamed Daimler executive told the paper.

The report noted Lieb’s popularity with the brand’s American dealers, who largely credited him for making Mercedes the second largest luxury brand by sales volume, behind Lexus, in the United States. A meeting of American dealers scheduled for this week was postponed following Lieb’s dismissal.

Donna Boland, the corporate communications manager for Mercedes-Benz USA, told the New York Times the company was working with its dealer board to identify new dates for the meeting.

Handelsblatt also noted an episode from 2005, in which an experienced Daimler sales manager in Germany was fired after it was revealed that he paid for renovations on his house on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca with company funds.