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Chrysler names future successor to Robert Nardelli

Robert Kidder, the former chief executive of battery maker Duracell, will become chairman once the company completes the bankruptcy process and merges with Italian automaker Fiat.

May 21, 2009|Ken Bensinger

Chrysler is not yet out of bankruptcy, but it already has a new boss lined up.

The automaker, which filed for Chapter 11 three weeks ago, said Wednesday that Robert Kidder would become its chairman once it emerges as a new company merged with Italian automaker Fiat.

Kidder, the former chairman and chief of Borden Chemical and current head of investment firm 3Stone Advisors, will succeed current Chrysler Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Nardelli.

"I am confident that Chrysler will emerge from Chapter 11 a lean and powerful competitor," Kidder said.

Nardelli has run Chrysler since August 2007. On his watch, Chrysler has seen its sales crash more deeply than any other automaker, was forced to borrow $7.8 billion from the U.S. government to remain solvent and had to submit to a shotgun marriage with Fiat.

When Chrysler declared bankruptcy April 30, Nardelli announced that he would leave the company when it completed the bankruptcy process.

"My No. 1 priority has been to preserve Chrysler and the livelihoods of thousands of people who depend on its success," Nardelli said Wednesday.

In Kidder, Chrysler gets not only another Bob at the helm, but also one with a range of experience, including having led battery maker Duracell International Inc.

That experience could be helpful to the automaker, which has pledged to make battery-powered electric cars a key component of its turnaround plans.

There is concern about how much control over the company Kidder will truly have. Chrysler did not name him CEO, saying that post would be filled by the company's new board, subject to approval of Fiat.

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has said he planned to be deeply involved in Chrysler's operations.

Chrysler did not specify Kidder's compensation. Nardelli agreed to a $1 salary for 2009. Details of his severance package are not known.

When Nardelli departed his previous job as chief executive of Home Depot Inc., he was roundly criticized for his severance package, which topped $200 million.

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ken.bensinger@latimes.com

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