Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, the outspoken former Proton chief, is set to make a shock return to the national carmaker, which is now under DRB-Hicom’s ownership. Business Times reports that the ex CEO will probably return as chairman of Proton, leading the company into another new phase.

“More or less, it’s almost a done deal,” a source close to DRB-Hicom told BT. If true, TM will replace Datuk Seri Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh, who was one of the bidders for Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s 42.74% stake in Proton.

Tengku Mahaleel’s last stint in Proton ended on 30 September 2005, when his contract was not renewed by the board of directors led by Datuk Mohammed Azlan Hashim, then the chairman of Proton. TM joined Proton as Vice Chairman, Strategy & Operations in 1996 and was with the company for over nine years. The official statement then explained that Proton is a “national asset, an institution of sorts and not a private entity.”

Prior to his departure, he did a controversial interview with a Chinese daily, disagreeing with the way the national automotive industry was heading. “Automobile assembly means you just need screw drivers, you don’t need die and mould and engine factory. If the government only needs the automobile assemblers, we can then grab a Mitsubishi car, fix it with a Proton emblem and say: ‘Nah, this a Proton car’,” he was quoted as saying.

Not a man to mince words, that’s for sure!