Mike Manley is leaving Stellantis, the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO who helped put together its merger with France’s PSA, set to take over as CEO of AutoNation.
The move was not entirely unexpected. Manley’s authority was sharply scaled back following the merger that created the world’s fourth-largest automaker. He was named the Head of Americas and was stripped of his board seat as part of the new company.
As CEO he takes charge of the largest U.S. auto retail chain at a time when dealers are turning in record profits.
“After 20 incredible, challenging and enjoyable years, and with Stellantis performing so strongly under (CEO Carlos Tavares’) leadership, the time feels right for me to open a new chapter,” said Manley in a Tuesday morning statement. “Working with Carlos to create this extraordinary company, with the constant support of our shareholders, has been a huge privilege both professionally and personally.”
Tenure at Stellantis
The British-born Manley was trained as an engineer but his automotive career was centered around sales and marketing. He joined DaimlerChrysler in 2000 in Great Britain and transferred to the U.S. three years later. Manley cycled through a number of jobs in the following years but came to prominence when named CEO of the Jeep division in 2008. He subsequently added the Ram truck brand to his duties.
Manley was considered one on a short list of FCA executives who could succeed CEO Sergio Marchionne after his eventual retirement. But he was thrust into that post unexpectedly shortly before Marchionne died following surgery in July 2018.
During the next several years, Manley put a focus on achieving the goal that had eluded Marchionne for years, finding a merger partner for FCA. In the spring of 2019, it looked like a deal would come together — with Renault. But the deal was scuttled at the 11th hour because of the objection of Renault’s Japanese alliance partner, Nissan.
Just a few months later, Manley confirmed rumors another deal was coming together — this time with Renault’s French archrival, the PSA Group.
The deal was completed last December, but rather than leaving, as some observers had anticipated, Manley took the job of Head of the Americas, overseeing the largest source of the new company’s revenues.
Manley was well compensated, receiving $14 million in pay and benefits last year. But he was stripped of his board seat. As Stellantis, only the new CEO Carlos Tavares and Chairman John Elkann were given seats. The two men maintained the posts they held prior to the merger.
“It’s been my privilege to know Mike first as a competitor, then as a partner and colleague in the creation of Stellantis, but most importantly, always as a friend,” Tavares said in a statement. “From the very earliest days of our discussions, we shared a truly common vision, belief and commitment and it’s on these solid foundations, built over the past several years, that Stellantis has delivered its impressive early results.
“So, while I’m personally sorry to no longer have Mike as a colleague, I’m equally delighted for his new CEO role and glad that he will be joining the Board of the Stellantis Foundation.” Manley will retain ties to Stellantis in his new job, as AutoNation operates a large network of showrooms representing the old FCA brands.
Strong landing spot
Manley follows another colorful personality leading a profitable company in Mike Jackson, who basically lead the company from tough beginnings two decades ago to record profits in recent years.
The company reports an all-time EPS result in the second quarter. AutoNation reported second quarter 2021 net income from continuing operations of $385 million, or $4.83 per share. Second quarter 2020 net income from continuing operations was $280 million, or $3.18 per share, which included a non-cash unrealized gain related to our investment in Vroom of $161 million after-tax, or $1.82 per share, the company said.
Jackson actually retired from the role as CEO once before, but returned to the job less than two years later in 2020 after his second successor, Cheryl Miller, was forced to leave the company due to health-related issues. Jackson, at the time, was the company’s executive chairman — a role he was supposed to exit this year. Miller, who was once the company’s CFO, took the role after the initial choice, Carl Libbert, left after four months.
“Although Jackson will be missed, Manley is well qualified for the position and AN’s future looks promising,” Bank of America analysts wrote in an advisory to shareholders. As a result of steps Jackson has taken leading up to his latest departure, the note said, “We believe the stage is being set for a healthier and stronger multi-year recovery, which may be a supportive factor during AN’s CEO transition.”