Sergio Marchionne, who became the CEO of Fiat in 2004 and then engineered the takeover of Chrysler from the U.S. government in 2009, died Wednesday morning in Milan. He was 66 years old.
As head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU), Marchionne welded together two companies that were, each in its own way, failing. Fiat, controlled by the Agnelli family, was heavily in debt and posting big losses when founder Gianni Agnelli died in 2003 and his younger brother and heir, Umberto, died the following year. Agnelli’s grandson, John Elkann, took control and hired Marchionne to run the company.
When Chrysler filed for bankruptcy during the financial crisis, Marchionne acquired the firm and turned the combined company into the seventh-largest automaker in the world. He reached out to GM in 2015 to see if the larger firm was interested in acquiring FCA. GM was not.
Marchionne also spun off one of Fiat’s premier brands into its own company, Ferrari N.V. (NYSE: RACE), over the objections of the brand’s long-time CEO. Marchionne was also Ferrari’s CEO until last Saturday.
Elkann announced last weekend that Marchionne, who had planned to retire next year, would not be returning following a long hospital stay. FCA’s new CEO is Mike Manley, former head of the company’s Jeep division.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Elkann commented:
Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone.
I believe that the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion.
My family and I will be forever grateful for what he has done. Our thoughts are with Manuela, and his sons Alessio and Tyler.
FCA reported second-quarter results Wednesday morning that did not meet expectations and the company’s stock has dipped by around 8%.