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Published: Friday, 9/20/2013

Marchionne said to hire Obama car czar for Chrysler advice


MILAN, Italy — Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne has hired Ron Bloom, who helped run President Obama’s auto-industry team, to advise the carmaker on buying the rest of Chrysler Group LLC, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Bloom, now a Lazard Ltd. vice chairman, will assist the Fiat CEO in trying to strike a deal with the United Auto Workers’ retiree health-care trust, the only other shareholder in Chrysler, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Mr. Marchionne needs an agreement to complete his takeover of the U.S. auto manufacturer.

At the same time that he seeks concessions on behalf of the Fiat boss, Mr. Bloom is advising Detroit retirees fighting benefit cuts in the city’s $18 billion bankruptcy.

The unrelated roles mean Mr. Bloom, 58, will be defending worker benefits in Detroit while trying to trim them at Chrysler. He’s had experience in both arenas. The Lazard banker with a Harvard Business School degree worked with corporate clients on hundreds of bankruptcies and also spent 13 years advising the United Steelworkers union president.

Judi Mackey, a Lazard spokesman, confirmed the Detroit role. She declined to comment on the Fiat position.

Mr. Marchionne, 61, has spent the past four years seeking to unify Fiat and Chrysler so they can better compete with Toyota, GM, and Volkswagen. A fully integrated automaker would feature the mass-market Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge brands, along with high-end Maserati and Ferrari cars.

Mr. Bloom worked closely with Mr. Marchionne in 2009 when the Fiat CEO negotiated with the U.S. Treasury to acquire a controlling stake in Chrysler.

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