Former Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne dies aged 66

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Sergio Marchionne, the former Chairman and CEO of Ferrari, has died in hospital at the age of 66.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Ferrari confirmed on Saturday that Marchionne would not be returning to work after suffering health complications following surgery in Zurich. By Wednesday FCA chairman John Elkann issued a statement saying Marchionne had passed away in hospital.

"Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone," Elkann said. "I believe that the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion.

"My family and I will be forever grateful for what he has done. Our thoughts are with Manuela, and his sons Alessio and Tyler. I would ask again everyone to respect the privacy of Sergio's family."

Marchionne, who was also the Chairman and CEO of FCA, had been running Ferrari since taking over from Luca di Montezemolo in 2014. He was instrumental in returning Ferrari to top level success in Formula One in recent years, appointing current team principal Maurizio Arrivabene in 2014 and overseeing a change in the structure of the team's technical department in 2016.

He was also a vocal and influential figure in F1 politics and was set to stay on at Ferrari after his planned FCA retirement next year. He was a key player in negotiations over F1's 2021 rule changes and had warned the sport against dumbing down its engine regulations.

This year he also achieved his long-held ambition of seeing the Alfa Romeo name return to the Formula One grid. The Italian brand teamed up with Sauber at the start of this season and has become a close ally of Ferrari on political matters in the sport. He was also a supporter of Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc who made his debut with Sauber this year and had been lined up to join Ferrari in 2019.

Born in the Italian city of Chieti in 1952, Marchionne moved with his family to Toronto, Canada when he was 13 years old and gained dual citizenship. As a trained lawyer and accountant, he started work as a tax specialist with Deloitte & Touche in the 1980s before moving between companies in the 1990s and relocating to Zurich in 1994.

He joined Fiat's board in 2003 before becoming CEO in 2004. He was credited with the turnaround of the Italian carmaker in the following decade and oversaw the merger of Fiat and Chrysler to create FCA in 2014. He was also responsible for the spin-off of Ferrari from FCA and its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange in 2016.

F1 CEO Chase Carey said: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sergio Marchionne," he added. "He was a great leader of not just Formula 1 and the automobile world, but the business world overall.

"He led with great passion, energy and insight, and inspired all around him. His contributions to Formula 1 are immeasurable. He was also a true friend to all of us and he will be deeply missed. At this difficult time we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues."

FIA president Jean Todt also paid tribute, saying: "It is with great sadness that I learned that Sergio Marchionne tragically and unexpectedly passed away. Sergio achieved a colossal amount for the automotive industry and motor sport worldwide. He dedicated himself fully to turn around the FIAT-Chrysler group and put all his energy to bring Scuderia Ferrari back to the top. He was an endearing, upstanding and brave man, an unconventional and visionary leader.

"He was an eminent member of the FIA F1 Strategy Group and of the FIA High-Level Panel for Road Safety. His death is a considerable loss. On behalf of the entire FIA community, all my thoughts go out to his family, his friends and his Ferrari and Fiat-Chrysler group teams".