It is just as well that high-stakes industrial poker is a game familiar to Sergio Marchionne (LLB ’83), the Italian-Canadian chief executive of Fiat Group, wrote The Economist in an opinion piece reprinted in the Hamilton Spectator April 30. In 2005 he laid the foundations for Fiat’s spectacular recovery by extracting $2 billion from General Motors as the price for removing a put option that would have forced GM to buy the then-ailing Italian car firm.
Even by his standards the next few days will be a daunting test of nerve and stamina from which only two outcomes are possible. Either Marchionne will end up in control of Chrysler, the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three – or he will have quit the table, consigning the sickly carmaker to almost certain bankruptcy. Everything hinges on the negotiations taking place between Marchionne, America’s Treasury, Chrysler’s current management, the unions and secured debt-holders.
Why does Marchionne believe he can salvage something from a firm that the rest of the industry sees as a basket case – and which has defied the best efforts first of rich, successful Daimler and later of Cerberus Capital Partners, a sharp-elbowed private-equity group that acquired an 80 per cent stake in Chrysler from the Germans two years ago?
Quite simply, because he has done it before. When the Agnellis, Fiat’s dominant shareholder, turned to Marchionne, a corporate troubleshooter who was running another company in which they had an interest, they knew that Fiat’s car business, representing half the group’s turnover, was dying.
Italian-born but raised in Canada, where he qualified as both a lawyer and an accountant, Marchionne conforms to none of the caricatures of either country. Instead of sharp suits and elegant circumlocutions, he favours shapeless sweaters and brutal (expletive-laden) frankness; instead of patient consensus building, he bulldozes his way through, burying corporate politics and flattening dysfunctional hierarchies.
He has dual citizenship and a law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, noted the Spectator.
H. Ian Macdonald remembers Warren Goldring
In October 1963, following a number of financial catastrophes in Ontario, the attorney general appointed an eight-man commission on securities legislation, wrote H. Ian Macdonald, York president emeritus, in The Globe and Mail April 30 in response to an obituary for Warren Goldring. The commission had broad terms of reference to recommend any changes in the law deemed desirable.
Warren Goldring and I were the two youngest members of the group, by a considerable margin, wrote Macdonald. I soon discovered that there was very little about the securities business that was unknown to Warren Goldring, whereas I knew virtually nothing.
Toward the end of months of hard work, we all recognized that a variety of legitimate differences of opinion existed among the eight of us. Therefore, following a highly useful visit with the directors of the London Stock Exchange, we went “on retreat” to a country hotel on the south shore of England…. The final day dealt with a highly contentious issue: primary distribution of shares through the facilities of the Toronto Stock Exchange. On the eve of the discussion, Mr. Goldring and I paced up and down on that windy shore until after 2am, working through every facet of the issue and finally agreeing that we should push strongly to discontinue the practice. The next day the commission voted unanimously to do just that.
Our report became the basis of securities legislation in Ontario and stands today. I salute Warren Goldring for his insight and brilliance, as well as my fellow commissioners, sadly none of whom are still with us.”
York English grad/instructor will speak at Yukon writers’ conference
“Looking back, I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” Shyam Selvadurai (BFA ’89) says, “but growing up in Sri Lanka, there was no real venue for publishing, wrote the Whitehorse Star Daily April 29. “What I did was I used to write little plays and stage them in my parents’ drawing room. Then I went on to staging them in community theatre, and so I thought I wanted to be in theatre.”
Selvadurai, a Toronto resident, was born Colombo, Sri Lanka, and is of mixed Tamil and Sinhala background. He was 19 when his family emigrated to Canada after the 1983 Colombo riots. “When I came to Canada, I studied theatre at university with the idea that I would be a director. Then, in my third year, I took a play-writing class and loved it so much that I took another one in my fourth year. And I realized that I really wanted to be a writer.”
He might have tried to write plays, but there were practical considerations in the way of taking that route. “At the time in Canada (1988), there was no real potential to produce plays that had a large non-white cast. So I just reached a very conscious decision one day to switch to fiction and never looked back.”
Selvadurai has come to realize that this may actually have been the best choice for him for other than practical reasons. “I think my personality is better suited to writing (than directing) because I like to be alone a lot. I find being alone is a sort of replenishing experience, a very fulfilling experience, whereas I think a lot of people find being alone kind of draining.”
Dream chaser hits road
Some might call her crazy, but she prefers the term dream chaser, wrote the Newmarket Era-Banner April 29 in a story about York grad Vicki Pinkerton (BA ’08), a mother of four children who had a dream to travel across the country, visiting as many people and communities as possible.
Pinkerton studied social sciences & communications in York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. Once her children flew the coop and were living on their own, her yearning to experience the rest of Canada’s scenery and culture crept back to the forefront. Sensing now was the time, since her children were independent and she was healthy, she scheduled May 11 as her departure date. Pinkerton begins her quest at the furthest point she can travel by car in British Columbia and will follow a route to Newfoundland, which she suspects will take a few years to complete.
York professor speaks at opening of BME Freedom Park
Karolyn Smardz-Frost, a York University professor and author of I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: The Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, spoke at the John Brown Festival and grand opening of the BME Freedom Park in Chatham, wrote The Chatham Daily News April 30.