Former Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne has died following complications after surgery on his shoulder.
“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,” FCA Chairman John Elkann said in a statement.
The world’s seventh-largest car-maker said on Saturday that the highly regarded Mr Marchionne, 66, had been forced to step down as he was seriously ill in a Zurich hospital.
Mr Marchionne, who was born in Italy but who holds joint Italian-Canadian citizenship, is one of the industry’s most revered figures after rescuing Fiat, Italy’s biggest industrial combine, from near-bankruptcy in 2003/2004.
This entailed plant closures and many thousands of job losses but, from it, Fiat emerged as a stronger business and one that, after making a loss of €8.3bn in 2003, was also profitable.
“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,” Mr Elkann, scion of the controlling Agnelli family, added.
Even before his death, Italy was rocked by Mr Marchionne’s sudden exit from Fiat Chrysler and many paid generous tribute to a man who restored confidence to the country’s manufacturing.
Matteo Renzi, the former centre-left prime minister of Italy, said: “He has succeeded in giving Fiat a future when that seemed impossible. He created jobs, not unemployment.”
Silvio Berlusconi, another prime minister, said Mr Marchionne was Italy’s “number one manager” and said he had come “to symbolise Italian genius to the rest of the world.”
Marco Bentivoglio, general secretary of the CISL metalworker’s union, added: “We have not seen eye-to-eye on certain things, but together we challenged little lazy Italy, which prefers to close plants rather than roll up its sleeves.”
Mike Manley, a 54-year old British citizen, was given the tough job of succeeding Marchionne as chief executive of Fiat Chrysler.