Sergio Marchionne led life well. Until his recent shoulder surgery, the 66-year-old Marchione was the president of Ferrari and CEO of FCA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, singularly responsible for rescuing Fiat, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo, three storied automobile manufacturers. He also led the resurgence of Ferrari in Formula 1 after years of dormancy.
Marchionne had intended to retire from Fiat in 2019 but continue on with Ferrari, and had been active in its plans for Formula 1, working on new commercial agreements and new F1 rules scheduled to take effect in 2021. His malignant shoulder tumor led to subsequent surgery some three weeks ago, when he suffered an embolism that left him comatose. There was irreversible damage to the Canadian-Italian’s brain that could not be helped.
“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass,” said newly-named FCA president John Elkann. “Sergio Marchionne, man and friend is gone.” FCA appointed Mike Manley, former chief of FCA’s Jeep division, as its CEO; Marchionne’s management of Ferrari’s racing activities, which he assumed in 2014, goes to FCA board member Louis C. Camilleri, who is non-executive chairman and former CEO of Philip Morris International, Inc.
Sergio Marchionne singlehandedly brought Fiat, Ferrari and Chrysler back from the brink through his smart technical leadership of those firms, which he ruled with an iron fist; he is responsible for many of the more popular and successful newer models from FCA, such as the Dodge Hellcat Charger and Challenger, Fiat Abarth and 124 Spider and the latest Jeep products.
Marchionne had been instrumental in keeping Ferrari in Formula 1 and, as he intended to continue working with the Prancing Horse after his retirement from FCA, he recently negotiated a budget cap with F1’s power brokers, FIA president Jean Todd and Liberty Media’s top F1 chief Chase Carey. His love of F1 was well known and he was well-regarded in that paddock. Whether his successor will continue with Kimi Raikkonen as second driver or promote Marchionne’s choice, Charles Leclerc, is unknown.
“I hope that whoever succeeds him will understand Ferrari’s value in Formula 1 and decide quickly that the team should remain in the championship,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added, “This is a sad day for all of us in F1. We have lost a huge supporter of our sport, a fierce competitor, an ally and a friend. Our heartfelt sympathies are with Sergio’s family.”