FCA denies report on meeting about ailing CEO’s duties

Tommaso Ebhardt

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV denied an Italian media report that Chairman John Elkann will convene top managers in Turin on Saturday to discuss how to temporarily redistribute the powers of convalescing Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne.

A spokesman for Fiat said there is no meeting on Saturday to discuss redistributing Marchionne’s powers, but wouldn’t comment further.

The 66-year-old CEO’s duties will be discussed at the meeting, website Lettera43.it reported Friday, citing confidential sources it didn’t identify. Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer, Europe head Alfredo Altavilla and Jeep chief Mike Manley are contenders to take over for Marchionne.

Fiat fell 2.3 percent in Milan, giving the company a market value of 25.5 billion euros ($29.8 billion).

Marchionne will likely miss the carmaker’s July 25 earnings call with analysts as his recovery from shoulder surgery is taking longer than originally expected, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. CFO Palmer will probably lead the call, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential matters.

Marchionne has run the manufacturer for 14 years, rescuing it from potential collapse and engineering Fiat’s acquisition of U.S. carmaker Chrysler. The company said on July 5 that he underwent an operation on his right shoulder, and was expected to require “a short period of convalescence.”

This week, the company denied a separate report on the gossip website Dagospia saying Marchionne would be replaced as CEO by outgoing Vodafone Group Plc chief Vittorio Colao.

Marchionne, who moved from Italy to Canada with his family when he was 14, has transformed the two struggling carmakers into a global player. He first saved Fiat from the brink of bankruptcy and than rescued Chrysler in 2009. The executive, who calls himself "a fixer," has managed to boost the carmaker’s value by more than 10 times by boosting profit and separating businesses such as the supercar maker Ferrari.

The CEO has not appeared in public since June 26, when he spoke at a Rome event. Marchionne, who is also CEO of Ferrari and chairman of truck and farm-equipment maker CNH Industrial NV, has said he plans to retire in April from Fiat, while keeping his roles at the other two companies.

“This business, if you really want to do it well, is all-consuming,” Marchionne said in an interview in Detroit in January. “I am tired. I want to do something else."

Elkann, heir to the Agnelli family that controls all three companies, will also discuss who will temporarily be in charge of Ferrari, Lettera43.it said.

A Ferrari representative declined to comment to Bloomberg News.