Ex-Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne dies aged 66

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne 11

Sergio Marchionne, who led Fiat Chrysler to prosperity in the face of a stubborn recession and a host of other challenges, has died.

The former CEO of Fiat Chrysler Sergio Marchionne, who was the architect of the dramatic turnaround of the automaker, has died.

Marchionne, credited with turning around the fortunes of Italian automaker Fiat and the No.3 USA automaker Chrysler, as well as forging the merger of the two companies in 2009, was stricken during recent surgery and was left unable to continue at the helm of FCA.

Marchionne had planned on retiring as CEO of Fiat Chrysler at the end of the year.

"Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone", Fiat Chairman John Elkann said in a statement.

Former chief executive of carmaker Fiat-Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne. In 2009 he was picked by the USA government to save Chrysler from its trip through bankruptcy protection after being owned by a private equity company.

The scramble to replace Marchionne led to the resignation of a senior executive who was passed over for the top job, the sources said, and exposed fissures between the Italian and North American sides of the world's seventh-largest automaker.

As eulogies flooded in, FCA shares fell more than 16 percent as investors digested an unexpected 11 percent fall in adjusted operating profit, well below market forecasts.

Ex-Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne dies aged 66

The Associated Press contributed to this article. "There's no doubt that he was a unique man, and he will be sorely missed". "At this hard time we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues".

A colourful and charismatic fellow, Marchionne was one of the most respected chiefs in the auto industry, having turned around Fiat's waning automotive fortunes.

In an emergency board meeting at the weekend, FCA chose the head of its Jeep division, Mike Manley, as his successor. At the time, the company had been on the brink of bankruptcy.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "He was a giant in the industry, a friend of the Italian-Canadian community, and a visionary in the corporate world". In doing so, Marchionne helped FCA pay off its debts. Indeed before last week's crisis, many company executives remained in the dark, four banking sources who spoke to Fiat Chrysler executives told Reuters.

Marchionne was a tax consultant, a metals trader, and worked in trade services before the Agnelli/Elkann family tapped him to save Fiat in 2004. He also had significant input in Alfa Romeo. He also had a penchant for witty comments, such as suggesting in 2011 that anyone who thought Chrysler could have survived its 2009 bankruptcy without assistance from the USA government was "smoking illegal material".

Manley said on Wednesday that his mandate was to deliver the 2022 strategy as "a strong and independent FCA" but added the group would remain "flexible" about any deal opportunities.

Marchionne had "created a remarkable legacy", said Mary Barra, the GM boss that rejected Marchionne's tie-up advances.

Chase Carey, chairman of Formula 1, said: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sergio Marchionne".

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