The Fiat chief executive who took on the US

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Sergio Marchionne (R) is chief executive of both Fiat and Chrysler. Photos: Geoff Robins/AFP (L) and Chrysler
16:40 CET+01:00
Following Fiat's historic $3.65 billion (€2.66 billion) deal with US car manufacturer Chrysler, announced on Wednesday, The Local takes a look at the life of Sergio Marchionne, the Italian company's chief executive praised for turning both companies around.

Who is Sergio Marchionne?

Sergio Marchionne is chief executive of both Fiat and the US-based Chrysler.

Why is he in the news?

On Wednesday, Fiat announced it would take full control of Chrysler, a move that has been in the works since 2009 when the Italian company bought a 20 percent stake as part of its bankruptcy restructuring.

READ MORE: Fiat strikes deal for full merger with Chrysler

Why is the car deal important to Italians?

Marchionne said the deal would “go down in the history books” as it paves the way for a full merger between the companies to create a global auto giant.

The strengthening of the partnership will also come as welcome news to the 80,000 people in Italy working for Fiat, the country’s largest private sector employer.

Does this mean Marchionne will move Fiat to the US?

No. Although unionists have long feared that the Chrysler relationship would see Fiat go stateside, just four months ago the company announced a €1.0 billion investment in its Turin plant.

READ MORE: Fiat invests €1bn in sign of loyalty to Italy

Speaking to the Financial Times in September, Marchionne said: “We will never build outside [Italy]”.

“It may well be the next CEO that makes that call [to build elsewhere]. But it’s not me,” he told the newspaper.

How long has he worked for Fiat?

Marchionne became CEO in 2004. He’s since been praised for steering the company’s success, despite domestic sales being hard hit by the economic crisis.

The Chrysler move in 2009 was seen as a risky decision, but it paid off and Marchionne was soon being celebrated by Time magazine as a “Turnaround Artista”.

Marchionne, however, has been somewhat modest in his response to such praise. “Chrysler’s comeback is a direct result of a group of courageous individuals with an appetite for challenge and the will to seize and shape their own future,” he said last year.

Has Marchionne always worked in the car industry?

No. He started his career in the 1980s as an accountant and tax specialist with Deloitte & Touche. Also a trained barrister and solicitor, Marchionne worked his way up in the business world with stints at a printing and packaging firm as well as a gas company.

Before joining Fiat, he was CEO and chairman of Lonza Group, a chemicals and biotechnology company, and CEO of SGS Group of Geneva, a goods inspection company.

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What did he do before launching his business career?

Marchionne was born in Chieti in the Abruzzo region, but emigrated to Canada at the age of 14. As a result, the bilingual businessman studied in Canada, graduating with a degree in philosophy and economics from the University of Toronto and a law degree from the city’s York University.

As if two degrees were not enough, he also has an MBA and a Bachelor of Commerce from Canada’s University of Windsor.

What advice does he have for big business?

“The secret of success is not in some bottle you can purchase off the shelf,” he said in June. “Any organization’s success depends, first and foremost, on the mindset and capabilities - both technical and cultural - of the group’s leaders.” 

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