WASHINGTON -- John Bozzella, Chrysler Group's chief negotiator in settlement talks with dealers, is taking a job at the automaker's former owner Cerberus Capital Management LP following his resignation this week.
His move to the private equity firm was reported by The Detroit News, which quoted Bozzella in an interview, and was confirmed by a person familiar with the situation.
A replacement for Bozzella, who also heads the automaker's 10-person Washington office, is due to be named in the next few weeks, Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said. A company spokesperson said Chrysler didn't ask for Bozzella's resignation, which is effective Dec. 31.
"This is very unfortunate as we move to arbitration," said Tamara Darvish, a leader of the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights, a rejected-dealer group. "He was the Chrysler guy involved with every aspect of the negotiations. He had firsthand knowledge of the commitments that Chrysler made to us and to other dealers. Who are you going to put on the stand in arbitration that knows about these commitments?"
Bozzella's resignation, posted on Chrysler's Web site Monday, occurred the day after the Senate passed legislation giving rejected Chrysler and General Motors Co. dealerships access to neutral arbitration to pursue reinstatement.
President Barack Obama signed that bill Wednesday. The criteria to be applied by arbitrators under the new law are more favorable to dealerships than those envisioned by the automakers in plans announced earlier in December.
The legislation was drafted after Chrysler and GM broke off settlement talks with dealer groups this month. The discussions were intended by lawmakers as an alternative to earlier legislation that would have reversed 2,150 Chrysler and GM dealership terminations, 789 of them at Chrysler.
Bozzella did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A nod from Sergio
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also steers Fiat S.p.A., jokingly referenced Bozzella earlier this month when asked by a reporter at a Washington luncheon to comment on the dealer-arbitration legislation being developed by senior lawmakers.
"I've been advised by our Washington people," Marchionne said with a smile and a nod to Bozzella, who was seated in the audience, "not to talk about this."
Bozzella also is president of the Chrysler Foundation philanthropy and is on the executive committee of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a Washington lobby for domestic and foreign automakers, a biography on the Chrysler Web site says.
He joined the former DaimlerChrysler AG in 2005 as vice president of external affairs and public policy from Ford Motor Co., where he was vice president of public policy and state governmental affairs, the biography says. Cerberus bought Chrysler in 2007 and owned it until this year's U.S.-steered bankruptcy and transfer to Fiat control.
Bozzella, a New York City-area native, graduated from Cornell University in 1984.