Fiat Chrysler revealed no specific details about Sergio Marchionne's health Saturday when its board abruptly replaced him as CEO, but comments by the company and its chairman suggest that the 66-year-old has become gravely ill weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"It is a situation that was unthinkable until a few hours ago, and one that leaves us all with a real sense of injustice," FCA Chairman John Elkann wrote in a letter released by the company. Elkann said he was "profoundly saddened" by Marchionne's condition.
FCA had been expected to appoint Marchionne's successor in April 2019. But on Saturday it said Marchionne had experienced "unexpected complications" during his recovery and that the problems had "worsened significantly in recent hours."
"As a consequence, Mr. Marchionne will be unable to return to work," FCA said in a statement.
Marchionne has not been seen in public since a June 26 appearance in Rome. On July 5, an FCA spokesman told Italian business website Lettera 43 that Marchionne had surgery on his right shoulder and needed a short period of convalescence.
Marchionne, who worked long hours as he crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean in his signature black sweaters to oversee FCA's European and North American operations, was a chain smoker and heavy espresso drinker until quitting both about a year ago, Bloomberg reported.
Marchionne was born in Italy and moved with his family to Toronto as a teenager. He speaks fluent English, French and Italian and earned degrees in philosophy, business and law before initially working as an accountant in Canada. He joined the Fiat S.p.A. board as an independent director in 2003 and became its CEO in 2004.
"My first thoughts go to Sergio and his family," wrote Elkann, who praised Marchionne's "human qualities, his generosity and the way he understood people. "For so many, Sergio has been an enlightened leader and a matchless point of reference."
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