Sunday, June 14, 2009

Detroit Suburbs Beckon Fiat Executives With $1,595 Sandals

June 8 (Bloomberg)

Some people in Birmingham, Michigan, can’t wait for the Italians to take over Chrysler LLC.

Karen Daskas, owner of a women’s fashion shop called Tender, said she carries Chrissie Morris high-heeled sandals -- original price $1,595; now $795.50 -- that might appeal to Italian expatriates from Fiat SpA. A few doors away, jeweler Gary Astreins said that “new blood” should bring new jobs to an ailing economy. Next year, students at a local public high school may be able to study Italian.

“I’m preparing to work for the relocation of Fiat’s executives,” said Carolyn Bowen-Keating of Weir Manuel Realtors in Birmingham. “I’m organizing a presentation of our services at the Italian consulate in Detroit.”

Bowen-Keating, 57, is trying to win business from the expected arrival of executives from Turin-based Fiat, which would control Chrysler following federal court approval of a sale. Chrysler is based in another Detroit suburb, Auburn Hills.

Should the acquisition go as planned, 100 to 200 executives may relocate to Michigan within 18 months, according to Gerald C. Meyers, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and a former chairman of American Motors Corp. A Fiat spokesman, Gualberto Ranieri, declined to comment on how many employees might move.

Chances are those managers will live in or near Birmingham, population 20,000, if the housing choices of other car industry executives are any guide.

‘Green and Beautiful’

During his almost two-year tenure as Chrysler’s chief executive officer, Robert Nardelli used to stay in Birmingham at the Townsend Hotel. Rick Wagoner, General Motors Corp.’s former CEO, lives in the city. His successor, Fritz Henderson, lives a mile away in Bloomfield Hills. Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche lived in Bloomfield Township when he ran the U.S. operations of DaimlerChrysler.

Birmingham is in Oakland County, where much of Detroit’s middle class moved after the city’s riots of 1967, said Robin Boyle, professor of urban planning at Wayne State University in Detroit. Birmingham’s downtown is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northwest of Detroit, and is within 20 miles of the headquarters of GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler.

“The place is very green and beautiful and conveniently located for those working in the auto sector,” said Stefano Aversa, the Florentine co-president of restructuring firm AlixPartners LLP. “The reputation of Detroit and its surroundings is much worse than it deserves.” More here.

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