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RPT-NEWSMAKER-Illness ends career of Sergio Marchionne, the CEO who liked to fix things

(Repeats story that ran Saturday with no change to headline or textual content)

By Agnieszka Flak and Pamela Barbaglia

MILAN/LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) – Sergio Marchionne bowed out on Saturday as one of the auto trade’s most demanding and tenacious chief executives, his well being in disaster after a career through which he rescued Fiat and Chrysler, two of its most storied manufacturers.

Fourteen years after he first took the wheel of Fiat, the gruff 66-year-old was changed as boss of the Fiat Chrysler (FCA) group he constructed. He had suffered critical problems from shoulder surgical procedure and his well being was worsening, the firm stated.

FCA gave no additional particulars.

In Italy, the place his turnaround of Fiat earned him legendary standing, he was handled like a rock star. The former philosophy scholar and accountant virtually by no means wore a tie and most popular informal sweaters, half-joking that it saved him time on dressing.

A heavy smoker till giving up the behavior a yr in the past, he was recognized for working terribly lengthy hours earlier than falling in poor health. He demanded others maintain a equally gruelling schedule, incomes him the popularity from associates and foes alike for being cussed and smug.

“I feel like I live in a tunnel. He is not just demanding; he wants all your life devoted to him,” stated one banker who has labored with Marchionne on numerous offers in recent times.

Some couldn’t sustain together with his round-the-clock strategy.

“He emails you at all hours and wants an answer within five minutes, even in the middle of the night. If you don’t answer promptly you lose the mandate,” one other banker stated.

“I only started having a life and seeing my family when I stopped working with him.”

In his final public look on June 26, carrying his signature sweater, Marchionne appeared fatigued and out of breath as he introduced a Jeep Wrangler to Italy’s paramilitary police, the Carabinieri, at a ceremony in Rome.

Days later, he went to Switzerland to bear what FCA described as a shoulder operation. FCA has not stated what occurred after he left the working theatre, besides that he suffered problems that abruptly worsened on Saturday.

In an emergency board assembly on Saturday, FCA selected the head of its Jeep division, Mike Manley, as his successor and voiced “profound sorrow” at Marchionne’s situation.

Marchionne has completed what many thought unimaginable, most notably his large gamble simply over a decade in the past when he set in movement the marriage between the then ailing Fiat with bankrupt U.S. rival Chrysler. It is now the world’s seventh-largest carmaker and is debt-free.

“Sergio Marchionne’s time as CEO of Fiat is already the stuff of legend,” Bernstein analyst Max Warburton stated earlier this yr.

His shrewd dealmaking stored traders onboard and earned him accolades, even from opponents. Fiat’s worth grew greater than 11 instances, helped by the spin-off of vans and tractor maker CNH Industrial and sportscar group Ferrari, fuelling expectations of different transformational offers to come.

‘I LIKE TO FIX THINGS’

“You can argue Sergio has a bad temperament. You can say he is a bad father, as he never spends time with his kids, but you cannot ever question his leadership as a manager. He has done miracles at Fiat,” stated one other an individual who labored with him.

The son of a carabiniere, Marchionne was born and raised in the impoverished central area of Abruzzo, Italy. His household moved to Toronto when he was 14 to escape what his father seen as the confines of an Italian society obsessive about standing over expertise.

His background is in finance, not autos, however Marchionne earned kudos for his turnaround abilities in 2004-5 when he saved Fiat, Italy’s largest industrial group with a century of historical past and a 200,00Zero-strong world workforce, from close to chapter.

“I like to fix things and to be blunt, Fiat needs a fix right now,” he stated after his appointment as CEO in 2004.

For 14 years he relentlessly pursued these targets, sleeping on the sofa of his non-public aircraft whereas jetting between workplaces in Detroit, Turin and London.

A tricky negotiator recognized for getting his manner, in 2005 Marchionne compelled General Motors to pay Fiat $2 billion not to train an possibility to promote its auto division to the U.S. carmaker.

He flattened an rigid hierarchy, changing layers of center administration with meritocracy.

He took a knife to prices, drastically lowering the quantity of automobile platforms, and shaped joint ventures to share improvement and manufacturing.

He clinched a partnership with Chrysler earlier than ultimately shopping for out the relaxation of it in a deal he orchestrated over his Christmas break in 2013, at a Florida seashore, in a one-on-one assembly even these shut to him had been unaware of.

He revived Chrysler betting that its Jeep model ought to be taken world. Jeep is now Fiat Chrysler’s progress engine.

He took the daring step to finish manufacturing of unprofitable sedans in the United States and retool crops to enhance output of profitable SUVs and vans, a transfer since emulated by rivals.

Known by direct studies in Italy as “il Dottore” and by his U.S. lieutenants as “The Boss”, Marchionne ran the government staff with an iron fist, individuals who work carefully with him say.

LOSING THE MIDAS TOUCH?

Marchionne has a formidable observe document of creating shareholder worth, however he has been much less profitable at delivering a string of current, formidable turnarounds.

Profitability in Europe is simply step by step recovering and FCA has but to make any important inroads in China. It has additionally but to flip a revenue with Alfa Romeo which together with Jeep and Maserati was the focus of the final technique launched in 2014.

Marchionne refused to observe rivals and spend money on electrification, earlier than lastly making a U-turn as half of a method unveiled in June.

He additionally leaves FCA overly reliant on North America, a area anticipated to come off its peaks quickly.

Even although his bid to merge with greater U.S. rival GM to share the prices of making electrical and autonomous automobiles was repeatedly rebuffed, Marchionne admitted a merger for FCA was “ultimately inevitable” to have the opportunity to compete.

“Being small, cute is going to do nothing,” he stated final yr. “Go home, go to a beauty parlour and do something else.”

Editing by Mark Bendeich and Diane Craft

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