Getty Images

Former Ferrari F1 chief Sergio Marchionne dies at 66

2 Comments

Legendary automotive industry CEO and former Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne died at 66 on Wednesday in Milan, Italy.

The Agnelli family, which is the holding company that controls Fiat, announced Marchionne’s death in Zurich, Switzerland.

His death is believed to have resulted from complications of recent right shoulder surgery he underwent. The company announced last week that Marchionne would not return to his post with Fiat, a somber indicator of what was expected to occur.

Marchionne reportedly suffered an embolism during the surgery, which resulted after he bad reportedly been diagnosed with invasive shoulder sarcoma.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,” John Elkann, FCA President and Ferrari Chairman, said in a statement. “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 [partner] Manuela (longtime partner Manuela Battezzato), and his sons Alessio and Tyler.”

The charismatic Marchionne was a leader both at the race track and in the corporate board room. In addition to leading Ferrari’s F1 fortunes as company president for more than a decade, he also is credited with saving financially troubled Fiat and Chrysler from what many believed was certain extinction.

While he had a demanding style of leadership, he also was endeared and looked upon with great admiration for both his leadership and generosity.

Marchionne, who maintained Italian and Canadian citizenships, never got the chance to see his vision for Ferrari off the racetrack to be implemented. A new business plan was expected to be announced in September that would expand the Ferrari brand, including putting Ferrari motors inside Maserati’s.

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

“He taught us to think differently and to have the courage to change, often in unconventional ways, always acting with a sense of responsibility for the companies and their people,” Elkann said. “He taught us that the only question that’s worth asking oneself at the end of every day is whether we have been able to change something for the better, whether we have been able to make a difference.”

As for Ferrari’s racing fortunes, Marchionne helped lay the foundation for the team’s rebound in Formula One. Ferrari leads all F1 organizations with 16 constructors’ titles, but the last one came in 2008.

However, Ferrari has roared back this season to title contention for both the constructors’ and drivers’ titles (with Sebastian Vettel), winning four of the first 11 races of 2018.

Here are several tributes to Marchionne’s passing from those in the racing community (courtesy The Associated Press):

* Formula One CEO Chase Carey: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sergio Marchionne. He was a great leader of not just Formula 1 and the automobile world, but the business world overall.

“He led with great passion, energy and insight, and inspired all around him. His contributions to Formula 1 are immeasurable. He was also a true friend to all of us and he will be deeply missed. At this difficult time we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.”

* Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff: “This is a sad day for all of us in F1. We have a lost a huge supporter of our sport, a fierce competitor, an ally and a friend. Our heartfelt sympathies are with Sergio’s family and all at Scuderia Ferrari at this difficult time.”

* British F1 team Williams issued a statement via Twitter: “We are very saddened to hear of the passing of Sergio Marchionne. On behalf of all at Williams, we would like to express our condolences to Sergio’s family, friends and ScuderiaFerrari.”

* FIA president Jean Todt: “It is with great sadness that I learned that Sergio Marchionne tragically and unexpectedly passed away. Sergio achieved a colossal amount for the automotive industry and motor sport worldwide.

“He dedicated himself fully to turn around the FIAT-Chrysler group and put all his energy to bring Scuderia Ferrari back to the top. He was an endearing, upstanding and brave man, an unconventional and visionary leader. … His death is a considerable loss.”

* IMSA Chairman Jim France: “Sergio Marchionne was Chairman and CEO of several important automobile companies with significant history in motorsport. He was one of the most influential personalities the auto industry has ever seen, and that influence manifested itself on the racetrack through numerous race victories and championships over the years. On behalf of IMSA, I offer our sincere condolences to Sergio’s family, friends and numerous business associates. He will be remembered as an icon of the industry and will be missed by many who considered him a friend.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski