I’ll remember Marchionne on a personal level both for warmth and cool. Warm in personal chat, coolness in the brilliant, witty eloquence he always deployed when chatting or answered questions.
Once, at a meeting in London, he described at length and with total candour his admiration and warm personal regard for bike race star Valentino Rossi, who he insisted was Fiat sponsored because it made great business sense, while also making it clear the company was doing this because he wanted it.
It was great hearing him talk about buying every new Ferrari if he liked it — using his own money — and having the same interest in everything in the Vespa scooter range, also part of the group. He never tried to be conventional or fit a mould. I don’t believe being part of the herd ever even occurred to the man.
Marchionne’s press conferences could be amazingly informative, because he was lightning quick at anticipating the direction of questions and always met them straightforwardly. They could also be hilarious. He seemed especially to dislike German financial journalists and their often laborious questions about financial sensitivities or pension provisions, so far removed from the job of making a big business percolate, his first love. At one memorable conference he clocked one of these reporters writing stuff in a VW-supplied notebook, and instantly insisted his people give the guy an FCA pad, to help him get things straight.
Marchionne’s departure is a profound shock and a tragedy. He was a workaholic; it would be nice to think he’d had a little time to relax before checking out.
On the other hand, given the immense amount of ground he covered, and the order he created out of unprofitable chaos, it probably benefitted many people that he worked at top speed right to the end.
Autocar sends deepest condolences to Sergio Marchionne’s family and friends. An amazing man has gone.