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Wolfgang Bernhard Will Become
Chairman of Chrysler's Board

July 26, 2007 5:19 p.m.

Wolfgang Bernhard, an adviser at Cerberus Capital Management LP and former chief operating officer at the Chrysler Group, will become chairman of the auto unit's board of directors once the sale of Chrysler is officially completed, according to people familiar with the matter.

There will be three different boards for Chrysler's auto business, Chrysler Financial and Chrysler Holding LLC, which is a new company formed as a result of DaimlerChrysler AG's sale of an 80.1% stake in Chrysler to Cerberus, these people said. The auto and financial units are part of the holding company.

Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda, who once worked under Bernhard at Chrysler, will remain chief executive of the auto business. Since the sale of Chrysler was announced on May 14, Cerberus has made it a point to emphasize that Mr. LaSorda is in charge at Chrysler and that Mr. Bernhard would not be a part of Chrysler's executive team.

But it was clear that Mr. Bernhard has been playing a key role at Chrysler. He has an office on the executive floor and has participated in strategy meetings with Chrysler management.

The makeup of each of Chrysler's boards is expected to be announced when the deal closes, which is scheduled to take place on Aug. 3. People familiar with the matter said the boards will largely be made up of Cerberus employees and advisers who will oversee operations at the Chrysler units and ensure the companies are hitting established targets.

Mr. Bernhard was hired by Cerberus earlier this year when the private equity firm began looking at buying Chrysler. Mr. Bernhard, who had recently left Volkswagen and was known for his cost cutting efforts, helped Cerberus conduct its due diligence.

Mr. LaSorda said in May that he and Mr. Bernhard are close friends and it would be "crazy not to tap him" given his experience and talents when it comes to product development, cost cutting and operations. Mr. LaSorda also said he doesn't have an ego when it comes to asking for help when it's needed and he will look to Mr. Bernhard when he wants his assistance.

When Mr. Bernhard was at Chrysler, he and then-CEO Dieter Zetsche helped lead a turnaround and a product offensive that included the runaway hit, the Chrysler 300 sedan. But the effects of that restructuring didn't last long and the company was back in the red in 2006.

Write to Gina Chon at

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