Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne was not one to be controlled. He couldn’t be scripted. He said what was on his mind. And in the process, he frequently forced his talented but understaffed public relations team to scramble.
With degrees in philosophy, law and accounting, Marchionne made seemingly definitive statements punctuated with salty language, and – I am convinced – selectively displayed fake outrage that was designed to throw reporters and Wall Street analysts off guard.
Along the way, Marchionne regularly broke most of the conventional public relations rules. He went off-script on almost every earnings call, press conference and media scrum. Hell, much of the time he didn’t even have a script.
Over the course of seven years of covering Marchionne for the Detroit Free Press and USA Today, I had a front-row seat as he criticized U.S. regulators, European regulators, other automotive CEOs, the Trump administration, Wall Street analysts and, of course, the media.