Sergio Marchionne stopped smoking a year ago after having been a notorious lifelong smoker. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
UPDATED: 7/26/18 5:08 pm ET – adds family statement
Sergio Marchionne received treatment for a “serious illness” for more than a year before his death on Wednesday, University Hospital Zurich said Thursday.
Prior to the hospital’s statement on Marchionne’s health, the father of the late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO’s partner told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Marchionne “was sick for a year” in a report published Wednesday.
Pier Luigi Battezzato, the father of Manuela Battezzato, told the paper Marchionne knew his health was declining for much longer than originally reported, but never “spared himself.”
Battezzato said Marchionne stopped smoking a year ago after having been a notorious lifelong smoker.
“A year ago he had quit smoking, it seemed that his health was improving. He never stopped,” Battezzato said. “It was clear to everyone that he was not doing well. His physique had dried out and he was tired and breathed with a lot of effort. Yet he was always on the move, traveling from one part of the world to another. He has always worked and has never given up in the face of his commitments.”
Marchionne, who died at 66 on Wednesday, reportedly fell ill from complications following an operation. He recently underwent surgery for what was originally said to be his shoulder. Italian business website Lettera43 reported Marchionne suffered an embolism while undergoing the operation in Switzerland.
“I spoke to Sergio shortly before he was operated on and he was quiet,” Battezzato told Corriere della Sera. “He had even set up a meeting that was to take place these days. Then we got together for the holidays, there was a plan to bring the whole family together.”
Though Marchionne was scheduled to retire in April 2019, he was replaced as CEO of FCA by Mike Manley on Saturday.
Marchionne had an extensive career and was well-admired by fellow executives, international political figures and labor leaders in the industry as a transformative and influential figure. Marchionne captivated the industry, especially through his innovation and entrepreneurial mindset.
Marchionne’s most noteworthy accomplishment was saving Chrysler from bankruptcy in 2009 and combining it with Fiat to create the global automaker it is today.
Marchionne and Manuela Battezzato were partners for almost a decade, the report said. In addition to Manuela, Marchionne is survived by two adult sons from a former marriage.
“Sergio’s intervention was supposed to be simple,” Battezzato told Corriere della Sera . “The worst has happened. I don’t know, sometimes I think that if they hadn’t gone to Switzerland maybe it would have been different.”
Battezzato said his daughter would come back home to Alpignano following Marchionne’s funeral.
“One could write a book about [Marchionne]. It cannot be reduced to a few words,” Battezzato said. “He did extraordinary things, but he was a simple person. There was nothing mundane about him. His life was all about work and family.”
FCA issued this statement in response to the report: “FCA is not in a position to comment on statements made by University Hospital Zurich. Due to medical privacy, the Company had no knowledge of the facts relating to Mr. Marchionne’s health.
“The Company was made aware that Mr. Marchionne had undergone shoulder surgery and released a statement about this. On Friday July 20, the Company was made aware with no detail by Mr. Marchionne’s family of the serious deterioration in Mr. Marchionne’s condition and that as a result he would be unable to return to work. The Company promptly took and announced the appropriate action the following day.”
Marchionne’s family told Bloomberg in an email that FCA and Ferrari SpA, which he also ran, weren’t told of his health conditions until late last week when they were notified he wouldn’t return to work.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.