I first met Sergio Marchionne more than a decade ago after he joined Fiat as CEO and came to the U.S. to look over the company's Case New Holland operations in Chicago.
I always enjoyed his company. Anyone could tell how witty, charming and intelligent he was. His emergence as the leader of Fiat was rather remarkable and before long, he had saved the company from disaster.
Then when no one wanted Chrysler in 2009, Fiat took it over. Suddenly, Marchionne's headquarters — when he was not on his plane — was in Detroit.
It was fun to be around him. It is an old saying, but the man did not suffer fools, of which there were plenty around.
Marchionne smoked like crazy, often lighting a new cigarette with the old one, though I am told he gave up smoking a year ago.
One of the most amazing things I discovered was his love affair with BlackBerrys.
He had at least three of them. He'd take calls in English or Italian or Portuguese from Brazil. I visited him once in his office and he had the phones laid out in front of him, waiting for the next bit of information.