Ex­ec­u­tive saved Fiat Chrysler

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SUNDAY LEISURE -

SER­GIO Mar­chionne, the ex­ec­u­tive who pulled two ail­ing car­mak­ers from the brink of col­lapse and led the im­prob­a­ble trans­for­ma­tion of Fiat Chrysler into a car gi­ant, died in Zurich on Wednesday. He was 66.

Mar­chionne had been in­ca­pac­i­tated about three weeks ago by sud­den com­pli­ca­tions of shoul­der surgery in Zurich. He was re­port­edly later put on life sup­port.

“Ser­gio Mar­chionne, man and friend, is gone,” said John Elkann, the chair­per­son of Exor, the hold­ing com­pany con­trolled by the Agnelli fam­ily, which founded Fiat in 1899.

Mar­chionne took over Fiat, in Turin, in 2004 and spear­headed the ac­qui­si­tion of Chrysler in 2009.

On both oc­ca­sions the busi­nesses were near low ebbs and few gave him any chance of suc­cess. But he de­fied those gloomy pre­dic­tions. To­day Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles and Fer­rari, which was spun off dur­ing Mar­chionne’s ten­ure, are worth nearly 10 times as much as they were when he took over.

An Ital­ian-born Cana­dian, Mar­chionne had a rep­u­ta­tion as a chain-smok­ing worka­holic, one who forged his ca­reer as a tax con­sul­tant be­fore mov­ing on to a met­al­strad­ing firm and a trade ser­vices com­pany.

His le­gacy was de­fined, how­ever, by his work in the car in­dus­try. When he was hired by the Agnelli fam­ily to run the com­pany, they tasked him with re­vers­ing its long de­cline.

Be­fore long Mar­chionne be­came closely watched as one of the fastest­mov­ing ex­ec­u­tives in the auto in­dus­try.

A con­fi­dant of his, Mike Jack­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Au­toNa­tion, a large car deal­er­ship chain, said Mar­chionne had an un­usu­ally an­a­lyt­i­cal mind.

“He could take a fire hose of com­plex­ity and re­duce it to its fun­da­men­tals in min­utes,” Jack­son said. “He had the courage to make very ag­gres­sive de­ci­sions and, if it went badly, he’d be to­tally ac­count­able for it.”

He had planned to re­tire next year be­fore be­com­ing crit­i­cally ill as a re­sult of his shoul­der surgery on July 5.

The com­pany has cho­sen Mike Man­ley, the head of Fiat Chrysler’s north Amer­ica op­er­a­tions, to suc­ceed him. – The New York Times

PIC­TURE: THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ser­gio Mar­chionne, former chief ex­ec­u­tive of Fiat Chrysler.

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