The Business on: Sergio Marchionne, Chief executive, Fiat and Chrysler
Tuesday 08 February 2011
Do the Italians still love the man who turned Fiat around?
It's an affair that is souring, let's put it that way. A row is raging after Mr Marchionne suggested that he might move the headquarters of Fiat, one of Italy's biggest industrial names, to the US in a long-term merger with Chrysler.
Still, presumably the Americans are pleased?
Maybe about Fiat, but unfortunately, Mr Marchionne has rather upsetpeople in the US, too. As the boss of Chrysler, he has repeatedly complained about the cost of servicing loans that the car company took from the US government in order to avoid collapse a couple of years back. But using the term "shyster rates" at the weekend was a bit too provocative and he was forced to apologise yesterday.
Is he going to get away with this double blunder?
In a word, yes. Mr Marchionne is feted in the automotive industry for the way he turned Fiat around after arriving in 2004, despite having no experience of the car business. He is also making good progress at Chrysler, which is expected to return to the US stock market this year.
What's his secret?
Partly, it's good old-fashioned hard work. Mr Marchionne is famous for sleeping only a few hours a day, often on his private jet as he travels between Europe and the US – and for carrying six Blackberrys at a time so he can keep track of his various roles. He doesn't suffer fools gladly and has fired a string of executives at Fiat and Chrysler, but supporters say the way he has ripped up the traditional hierarchical structures of the car industry has paid dividends.
And what's he like?
Unconventional. Born in Italy, he moved to Canada at the age of two and retains dual nationality (he is multilingual too). He rarely wears a suit – preferring a jumper and smart trousers – chain-smokes and loves fast cars (he wrecked his Ferrari in an accident on a Swiss motorway a few years back). He is also a patron of the arts, classical music in particular.
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