Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and boss at Ferrari, has tragically died at the age of 66 after suffering complications during an operation on his shoulder. Marchionne was born in Italy but grew up and was educated in Canada. He built a career in capital and finance, but at the request of the Agnelli family, he took on the role of chief executive at Fiat in 2004, even though he’d had no previous experience of the car industry.
SERGIO MARCHIONNE 1952-2018
At the time, Fiat was in major financial difficulties, having lost $7bn in 2003. Marchionne immediately set about making big changes: cutting the workforce, speeding up the process of bringing cars to market and ending a collaboration with General Motors. Ironically, Marchionne would later attempt a merger with GM but was rebuffed by the American company.
He oversaw the launch of the highly significant Fiat 500 in 2007 but easily his single most important decision came in 2009, when Fiat bought the ailing Chrysler group to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). By 2011, FCA was reporting profits and, during Marchionne’s tenure as CEO, Fiat’s share value multiplied by more than 10 times. In 2014, Marchionne replaced Luca di Montezemolo (who is pictured below with Marchionne) as chairman of Ferrari. The following year, he span Ferrari off from FCA as an independent company, marking the first moment that Ferrari had been independent of Fiat since the Turin giant purchased a majority stake in the company 1969 (although existing FCA shareholders still held most of the stock).
Marchionne became central to Ferrari’s recent Formula 1 successes. He hired Maurizio Arrivabene to head up the team, then signed multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel. He was robust about F1 rule changes, threatening that Ferrari would quit the sport if he didn’t like what was on the table. He was also instrumental in the Liberty Media deal for F1 rights.
Marchionne’s dress sense was famously informal. Not for him a jacket and tie; his trademark attire was jeans and a black pullover. In fact, he was only ever seen once in public wearing a tie – in June 2018 when, after a promise he would don one as soon as FCA was debt-free, he appeared on stage to deliver his five-year plan wearing a tie.
A man who loved to down espressos, chain-smoke Muratti cigarettes and play poker, his energy was legendary. He lived life in the fast lane, flying almost continuously between Italy, the USA and China at a pace that would have exhausted younger men. He is survived by Manuela Battezzato, his partner, and two children, Alessio and Tyler, both from his former marriage.