Fiat's Marchionne becomes Chrysler chairman

DETROIT Tue Sep 6, 2011 7:32pm EDT

Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler Group LLC. Chief Executive Officer, speaks during a news conference at the Chrysler Casting Plant in Etobicoke May 30, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler Group LLC. Chief Executive Officer, speaks during a news conference at the Chrysler Casting Plant in Etobicoke May 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Cassese

DETROIT (Reuters) - Fiat SpA (FIA.MI) Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has been named chairman of the Chrysler Group LLC, the company said on Tuesday, further cementing Fiat's control of the U.S. automaker it has steered since 2009.

Two new directors with established ties to Fiat also took the place of resigning board members with private equity investment backgrounds who had been appointed as part of Chrysler's restructuring in a bankruptcy brokered and financed by the U.S. Treasury.

Fiat took majority control of the No. 3 U.S. automaker in July when Chrysler repaid U.S. and Canadian government loans from its bailout, giving Fiat the power to appoint the majority of Chrysler's nine-member board.

"Repaying our governments' loans six years early and refinancing our debt reinforces our conviction that we are on the right path to rebuilding this company and restoring it to its rightful place on the global automotive landscape within the framework of Chrysler's global alliance with Fiat," Marchionne, 59, said in a statement.

Robert Kidder, who heads Columbus, Ohio-based private equity firm 3Stone Advisors LLC, resigned as Chrysler's chairman along with two other directors George Gosbee and Scott Stuart, Chrysler said.

Leo Houle, 64, and John Lanaway, 60, were appointed to take those two board seats. Both are already on the board of farm and construction equipment maker CNH Global NV CNH.N, which is majority-owned by Fiat Industrial SpA FI.MI.

Houle, a Canadian, retired in July 2008 as chief talent officer of BCE Inc and Bell Canada, Canada's largest communications company.

Lanaway, an American citizen who was born in Canada, until June was executive vice president and chief financial officer for North American operations of McCann Erickson.

In May, Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion in loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments stemming from its 2009 federal bailout. Marchionne said in August that Chrysler was preparing to reshuffle its board.

Last week, the combined management teams of Fiat and Chrysler met for the first time.

Marchionne, who has made Fiat one of Europe's top turnaround stories, wants to elevate the Italian automaker as a global competitor through a revamped Chrysler.

Stuart, who has left the board, is a founding partner in Sageview Capital LLC. Stuart had played a role in Chrysler's refinancing negotiations with a consortium of banks earlier this year, people involved in the deal said.

Gosbee heads AltaCorp Capital Inc, a Canadian investment firm.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Deepa Seetharaman)

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