Chrysler focuses on staff updates in sale

AUBURN HILLS, MI: The Chrysler Group focused on internal communications last week when an 80.1% stake of the company was sold by parent Daimler- Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion.

AUBURN HILLS, MI: The Chrysler Group focused on internal communications last week when an 80.1% stake of the company was sold by parent Daimler- Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion.

Allan Nahajewski, senior manager of Chrysler Group internal and electronic communications, said a small group of people were working pre-dawn last Monday preparing for the announcement.

"At 4:42am EST, we pushed the button on the communication to all [80,000] Chrysler Group employees," he said. "After that, it was all hands on deck."

Employees received, via e-mail, statements from Tom LaSorda, president and CEO of Chrysler Group, and Dieter Zetsche, chairman of DaimlerChrysler, as well as a 30-part Q&A about the sale and the official press release. Everything was available on the company's internal Web site as well.

"There was a sense of enthusiasm [in the messages] for the new future and at the same time a reminder that no matter what our situation is we have to deliver results," Nahajewski said. "There was also a little bit of education about who Cerberus is and what they stand for."

LaSorda, Zetsche, and representatives of Cerberus held a meeting Monday night with the company's top 400 executives to talk about the agreement and answer any questions.

"The directors who attended the meeting are instructed to go back and meet with their teams and relay what they've learned," Nahajewski said.

LaSorda also filmed a five-minute video e-mail message that was sent to employees last Tuesday at 9am.

"Tom wanted his message to be more than just text on a screen," Nahajewski said.

Cerberus worked with Weber Shandwick, whose financial practice has had the private equity firm as a client for the past year.

Peter Duda, the WS EVP who leads the account, said the agency handled "media relations, constituent communications," and other typical M&A communications tasks on the Chrysler deal. That work will continue as the transaction proceeds, Duda said.

Chrysler Group handled external communications of the announcement in-house. And Jason Vines, VP of communications at Chrysler Group, said there will be no effect on the company's PR staff or the firms it works with, which include ClearBlue and Stratacomm.

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