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Chrysler Group adds new directors; elects Marchionne chairman

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler Group has appointed Léo W. Houle, 63, and John B. Lanaway, 60, to its board as independent directors, effective immediately. They will replace Scott M. Stuart and George F.J. Gosbee, who have resigned. C. Robert Kidder, who was chosen by the U.S. government to replace Robert Nardelli as Chrysler’s chairman upon the company’s emergence from bankruptcy in 2009, has also resigned and Sergio Marchionne has been elected Chairman of the Chrysler Board, replacing him. Stuart was also placed on Chrysler’s board by the federal government while Gosbee was a Canadian government appointee, charged with safeguarding Canada’s interests.

Ronald L. Thompson, the third U.S. government appointee, remains with the company and was elected as Lead Director.

Léo W. Houle joins the Compensation and Leadership Development Committee and John B. Lanaway sits on the Audit Committee.

“It is with great pleasure that I welcome these respected and knowledgeable professionals to join our Board of Directors. Their leadership, insights and counsel will be invaluable in reinforcing our determination to achieve the financial targets outlined in our 2010-2014 Business Plan announced in November 2009,” said Marchionne.

“I also want to extend my gratitude to George and Scott for their support in putting the Company on a solid path, and in particular to Bob Kidder, who provided a solid point of reference in the last two years as Chairman of our Company. I thank them for their efforts and I wish them well.”

The changes were expected with the repayment of the U.S. and Canadian government loans and Fiat’s acquisition of a majority ownership position in Chrysler.

Léo W. Houle: Since 2006, Houle has been a director of CNH, a majority-owned subsidiary of Fiat Industrial S.p.A. He retired in 2008 as Chief Talent Officer of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada, Canada’s largest communications company. Prior to joining BCE and Bell Canada in 2001, he was Senior Vice-President, Corporate Human Resources of Algroup Ltd., a Swiss-based diversified industrial company. Houle completed his studies at the College St-Jean in Edmonton, attended the Executive Development Program in Human Resources at the University of Western Ontario in 1987 and holds the designation of Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) from the Province of Ontario.

John B. Lanaway: Also a CNH director since 2006, Lanaway was executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, North America, of McCann Erickson. Up until to November 2007, he held similar positions at Ogilvy North America. Previously, he held the positions of Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President at Geac Computer Corporation Limited from 1999 to 2001; Chief Financial Officer of Algorithmics Incorporated from 1997 to 1999; and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Spar Aerospace from 1995 to 1996. He graduated from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, C.A. and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto.

The new directors, both Canadians, have history with Marchionne: Lanaway was at Deloitte and Touche when Marchionne joined the firm in 1983. In 1985, they both went to Lawson Mardon Group: Lanaway became VP for Financial Reporting and Control and Marchionne reported to him as the Group Controller. Houle joined Lawson Mardon in 1987 as Group VP for Human Resources. When Lawson Group was acquired by Algroup, Marchionne and Houle worked together with Marchionne ultimately becoming the CEO and Houle the VP of Human Resources.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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