Now for Sergio Marchionne’s encore: Chrysler

No other auto executive has gone from relative obscurity to international stardom as quickly as Sergio Marchionne (LLB ’83), wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 27 in Report On Business Magazine. A year ago, he was the boss of Europe’s sixth-largest carmaker – a relative non-entity. Today he is the man who is shaking up the global auto industry almost single-handedly.

Marchionne may have worked wonders at Fiat, a model turnaround story not matched elsewhere in the industry. But Chrysler is in far worse shape than Fiat was when Marchionne was handed the CEO title in 2004.

Some analysts doubt that Marchionne can keep Chrysler alive until late 2011, when the company is to roll out the first of a series of Fiat-inspired small cars in the United States, Mexico and Canada. But even the doubters admire the man for attempting mission improbable. “He has balls the size of grapefruit,” says one auto industry analyst.

His cleverest move came in 2005, when he persuaded GM’s then boss, Rick Wagoner, to pay Fiat $2 billion – money Fiat sorely needed – to eliminate a put option that would have forced GM to take control of Fiat’s auto division…. It was a tremendous coup for Fiat (and a move that accelerated the bankruptcy of GM). “Only a North American could have negotiated with GM and only an Italian could have convinced Fiat to follow him,” says Roland Berger, an independent Fiat director and former Alcan director who is chair of Munich’s Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. “He understands both cultures, which is such an important asset.”

Ontario refuses to release special prosecutor contract

The Ontario government is refusing to release the contract of Richard Peck, the special prosecutor hired to handle criminal charges against former attorney general Michael Bryant, saying the contract is related to the prosecution and cannot be made public, wrote The Canadian Press Nov. 27 in a story about a freedom of information request by the press agency.

James Stribopoulos, a criminal law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, speculated the contract may be similar to retainer agreements made between lawyers and their clients. Such a retainer would include a description of the required work, the scope of Peck’s authority as special prosecutor and his rate of pay, he said. If so, then the contract “probably qualifies as a prosecution-related record,” Stribopoulos said.

Get set for a double whammy

This heady rush to snap up new homes may indeed be a further inflation of a balloon that is likely to pop within the next few years, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 27 in a story about home sales.

A good many clever people think we are right now sowing the seeds for the next residential bubble. They make a compelling case that the inevitability of rising interest rates coupled with rising gasoline prices will mean a big chunk of the group buying today will face personal financial difficulty in a few years.

“Frankly, I think we are creating the seeds of a future crisis,” says James McKellar, director of the Real Property Development Program in the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Sisters share spotlight

A Meadowvale artist is showing her works inspired by her relationship with her developmentally delayed sister as part of an exhibition that closes tomorrow at Toronto’s York University, wrote The Mississauga News Nov. 26.

Sarah Cooper, a fourth-year visual arts student, created the exhibition 18 Months Apart. The show is billed as an exploration of the relationship between Cooper and her older sister Tiffany, who suffers from cognitive impairments. It continues at the Gales Gallery on York’s Keele campus.

Champion of Tamil Tigers booted out of Canada

Federal agents arrested and kicked firebrand Tamil speaker Sebastian Seeman out of Canada just ahead of “Martyrs’ Day” celebrations set for today in the Toronto region, which is fast becoming the home of the vanquished Tamil Tiger movement, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 27.

Vithu Ramachandran, who attended Seeman’s speech at the Metropolitan Centre in Scarborough, had a different view. “It was a great event,” said Ramachandran, who is president of the York University Tamil Students Association. “I think it’s good for Canadians to hear another side of the story.”

Asked whether Seeman called for the deaths of Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, he said, “Not that I know of.”

Argo owners will stay, but want team to move

When CFL commissioner Mark Cohon stands up to make his annual state-of-the-league address in Calgary this morning, the subject he will be most asked about is likely to be the immediate future of the Toronto Argonauts ownership, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 27. While there will likely be no definitive answers from Cohon, CFL sources say co-owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon are leaning toward remaining proprietors of the franchise they rescued from bankruptcy six years ago.

And, according to multiple sources, they have their eye on a new home for the team – BMO Field, the home of Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC. It is believed the Argos may want to play there as soon as next season.

Its construction followed two failed attempts by Cynamon [a former York student] and Sokolowski [a York University Foundation board member] to build a stadium in partnership with the Canadian Soccer Association, first at the University of Toronto and then at York University.

On air

  • Craig Scott, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and director of the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security, took part in a panel discussion on the psychological and political tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Nov. 26.
  • David Bell, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about COP15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, on CBC Television and Radio Nov. 26.
  • Theo Peridis, policy professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the latest trends in the airline industry, on Global TV in Edmonton, Nov. 26.