Sergio Marchionne, 66, died in a Zurich Hospital this morning apparently from complications following shoulder surgery.
The official announcement came from John Elkann, a member of the Agnelli family that controls Fiat Chrysler.
“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone, he said.
“I believe that the best way to honor 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.
“My family and I will be forever grateful for what he has done. Our thoughts are with Manuela, and his sons Alessio and Tyler.
Earlier, reports said the 66-year-old Marchionne was on life support in a Zurich hospital with complications from earlier shoulder surgery.
An Italian news agency, citing unnamed sources, said the auto industry leader had cancer that developed in bones and connective tissues. The agency said the former CEO had a stroke during surgery and was put into a coma with irreversible brain damage, according to the Detroit News citing the Italian news agency this morning.
There has been no confirmation of that from Fiat Chrysler.
Last Saturday, FCA replaced Marchionne has its leader with Jeep brand chief Mike Manley saying their long time CEO would not be returning.
Marchionne turned around both Fiat and Chrysler eliminating millions in debt to the point where the company reported a net profit of $1.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. Reversing that debt was one of his key goals.
In 2011 he was named one of Time magazine’s “Most Influential People in the World” and a year later was named “Michigan Manufacturer of the Year.”
He joined the Fiat board in 2003 after a career in other businesses and two years later became its CEO. His first goal was to return the automaker to profitability which he accomplished by downsizing and restricting management.
Marchionne played a key role in the formation of a strategic alliance with Chrysler in 2009 where he became the company’s CEO. Just two years later, Chrysler posted its first profit in five years.
He was known for his casual attire of a black sweater and open neck shirt, seldom wearing a formal business suit. A trait that he said made it quicker to get ready for work in the morning.
Marchionne was known as a “shoot from the hip, go-go guy” said one labor leader and “very upfront” said another. Others said he was a chain smoking workaholic.
Some did not like that plain spoken style but others acknowledged that you always knew where he stood on issues.
Even in his college days in Canada, professors said they could tell that Marchionne was “going somewhere.”
One time Chrysler CEO, Thom Lasorda, called him a “legend” and “the very elite league of automotive CEO’s.”
The Italian-Canadian business leader drove high powered Ferraris, which are a part of the FCA empire. He once wrecked one saying, in the car business “sometimes you crash.”
His hard charging style and his ability to turn around struggling companies will long be remembered.
The auto biz is mourning the loss of a giant this morning.