Sergio Marchionne, the former head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles who is credited for saving Chrysler and Fiat has passed away today at age 66 due to complications from shoulder surgery.
“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,” said FCA Chairman John Elkann in a statement this morning.
Marchionne came into the spotlight back in 2004 when he was named CEO of Fiat. He was Fiat's fifth CEO in less than two years and had a big task ahead of him. The Italian automaker was struggling as it had lost more than 6 billion Euros (about $7 billion) the year before. Marchionne was somehow able to pull Fiat from the brink by closing various plants, laying off thousand of workers, getting a $2 billion payment from General Motors to settle past contractual obligation, and expanding the company's car lineup. It worked as Fiat would become profitable a year later.
In 2009, Marchionne led Fiat to acquire a 20 percent stake into beleaguered Chrysler following the 2008 financial crisis. Only a few years later, Fiat would buy up the rest of Chrysler and become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. He would oversee the reinvention of Alfa Romeo, expand Jeep into other markets, and spin off Ferrari into its own separate company. Other parts of FCA haven't quite worked out, most notably Chrysler and Dodge which has seen both of their lineups shrink.
Marchionne was not like your normal CEO. He was known for wearing black pullover sweaters and jeans which made him stand out at various events. Marchionne was also known for being direct and speaking his mind (for better or worse).
Next April, Marchionne was planning to step down as CEO and announce his replacement. But health complications over the weekend caused FCA to decide his successor. That person would be Mike Manley, head of Jeep and Ram Trucks.