File picture: Carlos Osorio / AP.

Milan - Former Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne, one of the motor industry's most tenacious and respected chiefs, has died, succumbing to complications from recent surgery.

The carmaker's controlling family shareholder confirmed news reports of his death on Wednesday, without giving the cause of death or saying when he had died.

Marchionne, 66, fell gravely ill after what the company had described as shoulder surgery in a Zurich hospital. He was replaced as chief executive last weekend after Fiat Chrysler said his condition had worsened.

File picture: Jeff Kowalsky / EPA-EFE.

"Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone," FCA Chairman John Elkann, scion of the controlling Agnelli family, said in a statement.

Marchionne rescued Fiat and Chrysler from bankruptcy after taking the wheel of the Italian carmaker in 2004 and he multiplied Fiat's value 11 times through 14 years of canny dealmaking. He was due to step down at FCA in April next year.

"The best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion," Elkann added.

File picture: Alessandro Contaldo / EPA-EFE.

On Saturday, FCA named Jeep division head Mike Manley as chief executive at the world's seventh-largest carmaker, saying the 54-year-old Briton would execute a new mid-term strategy that Marchionne had outlined in June.

FCA has said Manley will work to ensure a "strong and independent" future for the group.

On Saturday, Marchionne was also replaced as chairman and CEO of Ferrari and chairman of tractor maker CNH Industrial

These are some of tributes paid to Marchionne

Italian President Sergio Mattarella:

"Marchionne wrote an important page in the history of Italian industry. As leader of Fiat he went through years of very deep and radical transformation of markets, production systems, financial strategies, and trade union relations. He has ensured the continuity and the re-launch of the group by building a new combination able to keep up with the competition."

Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co:

"Sergio Marchionne was one of the most respected leaders in the industry whose creativity and bold determination helped to restore Chrysler to financial health and grow Fiat Chrysler into a profitable global automaker. His extraordinary leadership, candor and passion for the industry will be missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time."

Silvio Berlusconi, former prime minister and media tycoon.

"With Sergio Marchionne Italy loses not only the most brilliant of its managers, but one of the symbolic figures of our country. He represented the best of Italy."

"...An Italy that is not afraid of competition, knows how to face it and win thanks to the quality of Italian products and the creative capacity of people and businesses."

Domenico Siniscalco, former Italian finance minister, now Italy country head at Morgan Stanley.

"Sergio was a unique blend of a visionary and an executor. He combined a grand vision and the ability of getting things done. This is a real tragedy."

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi

"Our entire team at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi were saddened to learn of the death of Sergio Marchionne. At this difficult time, we would like to express our sympathies to the Marchionne family, to our colleagues at Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari and CNH International."

Reuters