His departure also vacates the positions of Ferrari CEO and chief executive, with Agnelli family progeny John Elkann picking up the reigns as CEO and Louis Camilleri taking the job of chief executive.
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The abrupt announcement was made after Marchionne’s condition declined following surgery, ending a 14 year tenure for the FCA boss and fast-tracking his retirement, which was expected to occur after a protracted gestation at the end of the year.
According to the company, Manley was already in the process of transitioning to the position of CEO and the recent development merely required an acceleration of the handover and confirmation of Marchionne’s successor.
Manly steps up from the role of head of Jeep and Ram brands with a marathon 18 years of service under his belt. The British exec joined Chrysler in 2000 when it was under the ownership of Daimler and was central to the Jeep brand’s transformation from ailing dead weight back into the black as a global heavyweight.
Despite Manley’s proven track record, Marchionne leaves big boots to fill. The Italian-Canadian was responsible for reversing FCA’s seemingly terminal slide into obscurity, returning the company to profitability in 2006.
The outgoing boss implemented a surprising level of transparency for FCA when he delivered the ‘five year plan’ in 2013, and the timing of his replacement is fitting with the 2018 - 2022 Business Plan presented just last month.
It remains to be seen where the respective new executives will steer the company in the coming years now the roles have been separated out but Ferrari says it has given Camilleri “the necessary powers to ensure the continuity of the company's operation”.
The severity of Marchionne’s condition following shoulder surgery is unknown at this stage, but a statement by Elkann seems to suggest a poor prognosis.
“I am profoundly saddened to learn of Sergio’s state of health,” he said. “It is a situation that was unthinkable until a few hours ago, and one that leaves us all with a real sense of injustice.
Elkann highlighted his predecessor’s achievements over the course of a long and colourful career.
“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. And Sergio has always made a difference, wherever his work took him and in the lives of so very many people.
“Today, that difference can be seen in the culture that he introduced in all the companies he has led, a culture that has become an integral part of each and every one of them.
“The succession plans we have just announced, even if not without pain from a personal point of view, mean we can guarantee the maximum possible continuity, preserving our companies’ unique cultures”.
Marchionne will also be remembered for his unapologetically blunt approach to both management and addressing the media, as well as his outspoken opinions regarding the automotive industry. His trademark sweaters will also be noticed by omission in the otherwise corporate realm.