John Elkann, born in New York and raised in the UK, Brazil, France and Italy, is the reigning heir of the Agnelli family, the Italian industrial clan that’s controlled Fiat for 115 years.
And, while Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, 61, got the spotlight for the New Year’s Day swoop to secure full control of Chrysler Group, the reserved 37-year-old will ultimately determine whether that transatlantic combination succeeds.
The young chairman, who’s already been on the job for a decade, is in position to steer what’s become the world’s seventh-largest carmaker for years to come. His global approach is already evident. Fiat is due to complete the purchase of the 41.5 % stake in Chrysler as early as today, capping a five-year effort to gain full ownership of the No. 3 US automaker.
The Italian company will discuss merger terms later this month to seal the transformation of Fiat from a Europe-focused manufacturer into a viable competitor to General Motors Toyota and Volkswagen.
While the deal with Chrysler broadens Fiat’s options, Elkann still needs to bolster an undersized presence in China, implement a 9 billion-euro ($12 billion) plan to turn around an unprofitable European business and ultimately select a replacement for Marchionne, a deal-making savant who saved Fiat from bankruptcy.
While the outspoken Marchionne, who’s publicly sparred with VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech over his interest in Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand, would seem to clash with Elkann’s refined restraint, the two share a common understanding. Both have cosmopolitan upbringings – Italian-born Marchionne grew up in Canada and lived for years in Geneva — helping them agree that Fiat needed to look beyond Italy to solve its woes.
Elkann, who is also CEO of Exor, the Agnelli family’s investment company, has sought similar global citizens for other key posts. In 2012, he appointed Shahriar Tadjbakhsh, a Swiss- born American with Iranian roots, as Exor’s chief operating officer.
Via Automotive News Europe