TURIN, Italy -- The forced departure Monday, June 10, of company veteran Paolo Cantarella as Fiat S.p.A. CEO was no surprise. His job had been at risk since Oct. 4, the day Fiat warned analysts it would miss all of its financial targets for the year and would close 2001 in the red.
That had not happened since 1993, when the company was in deep crisis.
The biggest surprise in the announcement of Cantarella's departure was that no replacement had been found. Group Chairman Paolo Fresco, 68, will add the CEO's title on an interim basis, the duration of which is unknown.
Gabriele Galateri di Genola, the choice of Umberto Agnelli, younger brother of Fiat honorary chairman and family patriarch Giovanni, did not want to leave IFI/IFIL, the Agnellis' investment-holding companies. But more importantly, the elder Agnelli did not support him.
The younger Agnelli had pushed hard for the removal of Cantarella.
As Fiat group in mid-April prepared to announce a disastrous first quarter - with a group net loss of 663 million euros, or about $627 million at current exchange rates - it appeared that Umberto would have his way.
The three-year terms of Cantarella and Fresco were due to expire and would have to be renewed at Fiat's May 14 shareholders' meeting.
Sources say a deal was worked out in which Fresco would stay as chairman, but Umberto's right-hand man, Galateri, would become group CEO.
Sources say Cantarella's exit package in April called for him to be elected to the Fiat group board of directors and to oversee Comau, the industrial equipment subsidiary. Cantarella ran Comau until 1989.