Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Ferrari and the FIAT-Chrysler Group, has died in hospital in Switzerland at the age of 66. He had been in hospital to undergo an operation on a tumour on his shoulder, and it is believed suffered an embolism.

The son of a policeman, Marchionne was born in the small town of Chieti, Italy, in 1952. After spending his early childhood days in Italy, the family emigrated to Canada, where Sergio was schooled and qualified as an accountant and a lawyer. He began his career at Deloitte and Touche, one of the leading names in accounting, before taking up a role in industry at packaging manufacturers, Lawson.

Agnelli Connections

His growing reputation as a sharp businessman led him to roles with companies associated with the Agnelli family, the leading industrialists in Italy – and among the most prominent in Europe – and owners of, among other companies, FIAT automobiles. Marchionne was appointed CEO of FIAT in 2004, at a time when the company was in dire trouble financially, and his ambitious and aggressive restructuring effectively saved this famous name.

FIAT had first acquired a 50% stake in FIAT in the late 1960s, this being expanded to 90% by 1988, hence Marchionne also found himself as CEO of Ferrari. He was instrumental in the FIAT group taking control of Chrysler in 2008, thus creating FIAT-Chrysler Automobiles. When the company was floated on the New York stock exchange in 2014, it was valued at ten times that it had been when Marchionne took over.

Ferrari Spin-Off

Marchionne always saw the value of the Ferrari brand and, in many ways, considered it hampered by the FCA umbrella brand, hence he proceed to spin Ferrari into a separate entity, a successful move that bolstered its standing as a leading world luxury brand. Marchionne remained at Ferrari as CEO and Chairman.

He intended to remain at Ferrari until 2021 – he was due to leave his role as FCA CEO in 2019 – as he was strongly involved in formulating the new Formula One rules and regulations that will come into play in 2021. His links with the Agnelli family remained, and he was also involved in plans to slowly disperse their holdings in the automotive world. He was instrumental in instigating talks of FCA being merged with, at first, General Motors, and latterly Hyundai.

Respected in the Industry

Sergio Marchionne was much respected in both the automotive world and that of motor racing. A forthright, intelligent and quick-thinking man, he was known for his trademark black sweaters and jeans, a look very different to that of many who frequent the boardrooms of major multinationals.

His management style was often controversial – to the point and blunt are phrases used frequently to describe him as such – but eminently successful, as his turnaround of the FIAT company and complete restructuring of its management and communications channels proved.

He was the recipient of a wealth of awards in the business sphere –  both in Italy and internationally – and has been called a ‘legend of the automotive industry’. In Formula One, his loss has seen rivals pronounce him as a much-respected and influential figure on the way the sport was moving forward commercially, and it is expected he will be very much missed.

Sergio Marchionne died on 25th July, 2018. He leaves behind a former wife, Orlandina, his current partner Manuela Battezano, and also two sons, Alessio and Tyler.

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