Ferrari Said to Consider Marchionne to Replace Retiring CEO

Ferrari Revs Up for IPO With Eyes on Marchionne
  • Marchionne may take post before spinoff from Fiat Chrysler
  • Felisa set for advisory role after retiring as head of Ferrari

Ferrari, the Italian supercar manufacturer that will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange later this year, is considering appointing Chairman Sergio Marchionne as chief executive officer after Amedeo Felisa retires from the post in the coming months, people familiar with the matter said.

Marchionne, who is also CEO of Ferrari owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, may take full responsibility at the division before it’s spun off in early 2016, adding to his list of positions, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks before an official announcement. Felisa, 68, may keep an advisory role, said the people. Discussions about Felisa’s replacement are under way, and no final decision has been made, the people said. Ferrari declined to comment.

The Fiat Chrysler chief “has the ego, the confidence and possibly even the ability to add the Ferrari CEO position,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said in an e-mail. “The norms mean nothing to him.”

Sergio Marchionne
Sergio Marchionne
Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Fiat Chrysler is selling a 10 percent holding in Ferrari in an initial public offering targeted for October as part of a plan to raise cash for the Italian-American parent company. Fiat Chrysler will distribute its remaining 80 percent stake in Maranello-based Ferrari to investors at the beginning of next year, making the supercar maker independent. Founding-family member Piero Ferrari plans to keep the remaining 10 percent.

Marchionne has said the division is worth in excess of 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion), more than half of Fiat Chrysler’s market value. The executive plans to develop the maker of the $320,000 F12berlinetta sports car into a full-fledged luxury brand like Prada SpA or Hermes International SCA.

The architect of the merger that created London-based Fiat Chrysler took the Ferrari chairman role last year in place of Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who stepped down after more than two decades in the post following clashes on strategy. A few weeks after that move, Marchionne outlined the plan to separate Ferrari from Fiat Chrysler and list the unit’s stock in New York. He than reshuffled management of Ferrari’s Formula 1 car-racing team and hired Sebastian Vettel to replace Fernando Alonso as the top driver.

Felisa, an engineer who has been at Ferrari since 1990 and was named CEO in 2008, was one of Montezemolo’s closest aides for more than 20 years. His departure would mark the end of an era. Felisa “brings over 40 years of automotive technical experience and skill to his leadership role,” Ferrari said in IPO documents published July 23.

Succession Plans

The executive, who turns 69 in October, has been planning his retirement for months, the people said. Ferrari said in the filing that “succession plans” are in place for key executives, but the replacements may not be people with equivalent qualifications.

Marchionne, 63, isn’t the only car-industry executive to serve multiple roles, but the positions are generally affiliated. Carlos Ghosn is CEO of both French automaker Renault SA and Japanese alliance partner Nissan Motor Co., while Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche also leads the German company’s Mercedes-Benz luxury-vehicle division. In addition to running Europe’s largest automaker, Volkswagen AG’s Martin Winterkorn heads Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the German company’s dominant shareholder.

Still, the number of executive or board positions Marchionne holds is unusual. He’s also chairman of CNH Industrial NV, the truck and tractor maker spun off from Fiat in 2011; vice chairman of Exor SpA, the holding company of the Agnelli family that controls Fiat Chrysler; chairman of SGS SA, the Swiss product-testing company that he led before the Agnellis picked him to run Fiat; and an independent director at cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc.

The number of seats he holds may put Marchionne “well over generally accepted global best-practice limits,” David Lahire, an analyst at Glass, Lewis & Co., said in a blog post on the proxy advisory firm’s website.

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