Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has purchased a custom-built home in northern Oakland County for $3.9 million after two years of condo living in downtown Birmingham, according to people familiar with the transaction.
The purchase reflects Marchionne's expanding presence in metro Detroit, where he already serves as chairman of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and suggests that he plans to spend more time in the U.S.
The move comes at a time when Chrysler workers and the business community are wondering what the executive's plans might be for a new global Chrysler and Fiat headquarters and whether its location could be in Auburn Hills.
In July, when Chrysler and Fiat announced a 22-person group executive council to manage both companies, Marchionne was named chief operating officer of the North American region. He became chairman of Chrysler in September when the company revamped its board of directors.
Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri said the company does not comment on private transactions such as home purchases.
Sources said Marchionne bought the home with cash and got a deep discount.
The home is more than 9,000 square feet and was listed at $5.5 million in 2010. The secluded home has a half-dozen bedrooms and bathrooms and sits on 2 acres with lake frontage.
He purchased his Birmingham condo in 2009. He also has a home in Geneva, Switzerland, and an apartment in Turin, Italy, near Fiat's headquarters.
Former Chrysler Chairman Robert Nardelli stayed in the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham during the workweek and returned to his home near Atlanta on weekends.
Dieter Zetsche, the top executive of Chrysler when it was part of DaimlerChrysler, owned a home in Bloomfield Township.
Marchionne wants to merge Fiat and Chrysler fully by the end of 2014 as part of a strategy to forge a single global automaker with annual sales of more than 6 million.
Fiat, still controlled by the founding Agnelli family, now owns 58.5% of Chrysler. However, all of the profits of the combined companies last year were generated by Chrysler, as Fiat is struggling with a debt-ridden European economy and declining car sales.
Marchionne has often praised Chrysler's workers and metro Detroit's cultural amenities.
"This town has got nothing to apologize about," Marchionne told the Free Press in an interview reported on last month. "The quality of life here is underestimated, and the quality of the work that goes on here ... is underestimated."
Marchionne's new home was built in an old-world style, said Kevin Akey, owner of AZD Architects in Bloomfield Hills.
Akey said he built the home for a client who couldn't complete the deal.
The home has water on three sides, Akey said. It was sold fully furnished.
The home has a two-story great room, six fireplaces, two gourmet kitchens and a lower level with a theater room, among other amenities.
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