Wondering who is keeping Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, on his toes as he tries to buy a United Auto Workers healthcare trust fund – VEBA -- out of the US carmaker? He is Alain Lebec, a French-born 40-year veteran of Wall Street who choreographed some of the biggest telecommunications agreements in the 1990s while at Merrill Lynch.
At the time, he was an adviser for General Motors Corp. Now, Lebec is trying to outmaneuver Marchionne, who is aiming to acquire the stakes at a price lower than VEBA says. Lebec, on the other hand, is aiming to get the largest payout possible for VEBA’s 41.5 percent stake in Chrysler.
This tug of war over the stake’s price is expected to reach another level when Chrysler undertakes its expected initial public offering filing by the end of the month. The progress of the IPO – to which Marchionne objects – is a clear indication of the extent and depth of Lebec’s influence and craftiness.
The IPO is also expected to be a hurdle in Marchionne’s plan to fully acquire Chrysler with an aim to merge it with Italian carmaker Fiat.
Lebec’s negotiating power is further boosted by VEBA stronger-than-expected financial condition as well as by an unusual provision in the bankruptcy agreement that provides the healthcare trust the power maximize its returns by forcing Chrysler to go public.
Maryann Keller, managing director of Maryann Keller & Associates, remarked that Marchionne’s plans are of “zero interest” to Lebec, adding that the only thing that matters to him is how much money he could get for his shares. [source: Reuters]