While Winterkorn gave up his €17-million-a-year executive role as head of Volkswagen (VW) at the end of September after news that VW had cheated emissions tests on 11 million cars, the 68-year-old kept his fingers in pies across the company's many subsidiaries.
He is chairman of Audi and of Volkswagen's truck business and holds a directorship at Porsche, – but he now intends to give up these roles, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Monday.
But the most significant change will be Winterkorn's stepping down from his position at the head of Porsche-Holding, the company that holds the Porsche and Piëch families' controlling shares in Volkswagen.
The Piëchs are the family of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche's daughter Louise, with the clan headed by Ferdinand Karl Piëch – Louise's son and VW chairman until April 2015, when he lost a hard-fought leadership battle to Winterkorn.
Staying in charge of Porsche-Holding would mean that Winterkorn – known affectionately as “Wiko” inside VW – was effectively still in a more powerful position than his successor as Volksawgen CEO Matthias Müller.
Gone within days
Company sources told the SZ that Winterkorn decided he could no longer realistically hold those jobs and will give them up in the coming days.
He already sent a signal in this direction by failing to turn up for the Audi board meeting last Wednesday.
The Lower Saxony state government – which holds 20 percent of Volkswagen shares, making it the second-largest shareholder – had warned Winterkorn that it expected him to resign from all his titles.
And industrial workers' union IG Metall – strongly represented among VW workers – added its voice to the chorus calling for Winterkorn to go.