By Craig Trudell
SOUTHFIELD, MICH. - Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker majority owned by Fiat SpA, named Brown University President Ruth Simmons to serve on its board, and the United Auto Workers replaced its director.
Simmons, 66, became an independent director effective June 10, according to a company statement. She is the first woman to serve as a director of Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler since Lilyan Affinito, whose 10 years on the board ended in 1996. Erickson Perkins replaces former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, 69, as the director serving on behalf of the UAW.
The new board members join as Turin, Italy-based Fiat plans to boost its 58.5 percent stake in Chrysler after taking control of the automaker following a government-backed bankruptcy in June 2009. Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive officer of both companies, plans to merge the two by 2014 and boost sales to more than 100 billion euros ($126 billion) a year.
“Our new board members bring impressive leadership experience, and their diverse perspectives and counsel will be of great service as we work toward achieving the financial targets outlined in our business plan,” Marchionne said in the statement.
Marchionne, 59, has said Fiat will exercise its option to buy an additional 3.3 percent stake of the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker from the UAW’s retiree health-care trust, which holds 41.5 percent of Chrysler.
The board term for Blanchard, who was appointed by the Detroit-based union, expired June 10, according to a regulatory filing. Perkins, 57, has served in the office of UAW President Bob King since July 2010 as director of the union’s strategic research department, according to Chrysler’s statement.
Simmons, who also serves on the board of Texas Instruments Inc., steps down as president of Brown at the end of this month after assuming the role in 2001. She will stay with the Providence-based university as professor and president emeriti after stepping down as president.
Simmons served as president of Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts, the largest U.S. women’s college, prior to joining Brown.
The appointments of Simmons and Perkins boost the total number of directors on Chrysler’s board to nine. Fiat re- appointed its five members, including Marchionne, who remains the chairman, according to the filing.