I was very saddened to hear of the passing of a dear Osgoode and IP Osgoode friend and Alumnus, Sergio Marchionne. He died yesterday, July 25 at the untimely age of 66.
Sergio and I were in touch recently as he was meant to deliver the keynote address for one of our IP Osgoode conferences. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Sergio when he delivered the Vico lecture at Osgoode Hall Law School and received the Hennick Medal in November 2015. I feel as though I have known Sergio for far longer as he worked with my father during one of his first jobs as an accountant in a Canadian company in the 1970s. He was admired then for his intuitive and savvy business acumen and endearing persona and will no doubt continue to be. To the world, he became known as an exemplary business leader and strategist, visionary and entrepreneur, rigorous and thoughtful trailblazer, humanitarian and a truly humble model citizen.
As an academic, I was most impressed with Sergio’s Vico lecture at Osgoode. His speech was stellar and it rivalled many seasoned academics’ lectures. Sergio was so effortless in conveying difficult concepts with passion and substance drawing from his many experiences, prominent philosophers and other experts. I remember the Osgoode Moot Court room was packed and many of us felt very lucky to be there. He certainly deserved the honorary degrees he had already been bestowed.
Sergio’s career was most impressive and showcases his unmatched commitment to excelling and catapulting the automotive industry to unthinkable successes. What he did to rehabilitate the Fiat Group in less than 2 years against all adversity from domestic and international pressures is just short of miraculous. His strategic vision for the industry in constantly innovating whilst inspiring the buy-in and devotion from otherwise contentious stakeholders was admirable. Indeed, his business modus operandi was socially conscious and responsible. At the helm of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he showed daily dedication to his peers and truly cared about the company decisions and policies he instituted and how these would impact his employees and the public generally. For instance, he fought hard to prevent layoffs and ensure that many families were not ill-affected by all the merger changes. There are not many business leaders who boast his accomplishments that would be as magnanimous.
Significantly, his inspirational feats are all the more remarkable as he came to Canada with his family as an immigrant, at the age of 14, starting from nothing. He went on to excel in his multifaceted academic studies in philosophy (University of Toronto), business (University of Windsor) and became a certified accountant; ultimately, he completed his legal education at Osgoode which launched his formidable career. He went on to serve as CEO in various leading companies, was recruited to Switzerland and then ultimately chosen to fix Fiat. In addition to having salvaged an ailing company and strategically merging it with Chrysler, thereby saving another, and becoming then the seventh largest automotive company in the world, he single-handedly revitalized the Italian automotive industry animating significant legislative changes. In essence, he made an innovative mark on the global automotive sector, now case-studies taught in many a curriculum.
Sergio’s formidable legacy will endure his passing and is deserving of every recognition. His indefatigable work ethic, candour and vision, matched with unexpected humility (for someone who also headed the Ferrari Group) was refreshing and will continue to inspire many a student and citizen in Canada and beyond.
Giuseppina D’Agostino is the Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, the IP Intensive Program, and the Innovation Clinic, the Editor-in-Chief for the IPilogue and the Intellectual Property Journal, and an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.