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Lotus CEO Mike Kimberley to step down on Friday, citing health issues

Wed, 15 Jul 2009

Lotus CEO Mike Kimberley is stepping down on Friday, as back problems are forcing him to prematurely call it a career.

Kimberley will turn 71 in August. He's in his second stint at Lotus and has been CEO since 2006. Under his watch, the niche sports-car maker moved ahead on the Evora and is positioned for the future under a new five-year growth plan that he developed.

Lotus said an executive committee made up of board members and backed by shareholder Proton Holdings will run day-to-day operations until a new chief executive is named.

Kimberley previously was at Lotus from 1969 until the 1992. Notable projects include the Europa Twin Cam, the Esprit, the Eclat and the Elite. He took over CEO duties after the death of Colin Chapman in 1982. Kimberley and Chapman were instrumental in the creation of the Lotus engineering unit, which has allowed the small company to work with some of the world's largest automakers.

Kimberley also worked for Lamborghini, Tata and General Motors. He began his long career with cars in 1953 as an apprentice at Jaguar, working his way up to section leader in charge of special projects, and in 1965, he led the team that developed the XJ13 Le Mans car working with Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons and race director Frank England.

Mike Kimberley spearheaded the Lotus Evora during his second stint with the company.

Kimberley is leaving Lotus after doctors told him to retire. He had back surgery in late 2008 that was only partially successful, the company said. He's being advised to retire so as not to jeopardize his long-term health.

“Sadly, it is on doctor's orders that I am stepping down, but I will leave confident that Lotus is in great shape with a strong management team fully supported by our shareholder in Malaysia,” Kimberley said in a statement.

“It'll be very hard to leave knowing that there are such exciting times ahead, but I'll take with me many very happy memories.”

Dato' Syed Zainal, managing director of Proton Holdings, added: “It is a great shame that Mike's health has forced his departure earlier than any of us would have liked. He has been a great asset to Lotus over four decades. Since his return in 2006, we have seen a huge turnaround in the fortunes of this great company. He leaves Lotus with our deep gratitude and our very best wishes for his retirement.”

By Greg Migliore