Sergio Marchionne, legendary CEO of Fiat Chrysler, has died suddenly at 66

Marchionne in January.
Marchionne in January.
Image: Reuters/Rebecca Cook
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Sergio Marchionne was a larger-than-life character who drove Ferraris, smoked cigarettes, and mainlined espressos. The former boss of Fiat Chrysler had a poster in his office proclaiming: “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”

The holding company of Fiat’s founding Agnelli family confirmed Marchionne’s death on Wednesday, after announcing his resignation over the weekend due to complications following a shoulder surgery last month. Marchionne was 66 years old.

He headed up Fiat since 2004, and revived US car brand Chrysler after its bankruptcy in 2009, when Fiat took it over and it became FCA. A master at restructuring, Marchionne spun off Ferrari in 2015, listing it on the New York Stock Exchange. He boosted the auto group’s market value more than 10-fold during his tenure.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,” said FCA chairman John Elkann in a statement. “I believe that the best way to honour 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.”

For all of his financial success, Marchionne was a controversial figure in Italy, where he came down hard on unions and strikers, and drastically slashed the company’s workforce. He was also known as a very demanding person to work for, maintaining a relentless schedule with almost no downtime.

FCA named Mike Manley, head of the group’s Ram and Jeep brands, as its new chief executive earlier this week. His first act as boss will be to discuss the group’s latest quarterly earnings, which were released this morning (pdf). Investors, analysts, and the automotive world at large will have other matters on their minds.