His name was Giovanni, like that of his grandfather, but everyone knew him (and they still know him today) as Gianni or the Lawyer. Charming man, rich, lover of sport and art, he was a great protagonist of the Italian economy e icon of style and elegance.
Gianni Agnelli, born in Turin on 12 March 1921 and died on 24 January 2003, at the age of 82. The second of seven siblings, he was fatherless at the age of 14, which led him to forge a strong and deep bond with his grandfather, famous for having founded the FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino).
Gianni Agnelli, a life between Fiat and Juventus
In 1945, following the death of his grandfather, the helm of the company does not immediately pass into the hands of Gianni but in those of Vittorio Valletta, a very successful manager who, for the next twenty years, will lead FIAT towards a great success. The nephew is given honorary and representative positions, as well as the presidency of Juventus, giving him the time to graduate in Law and enjoy his young age before being fully involved in the business dynamics.
In 1953 Gianni Agnelli marries Princess Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, with whom he will spend the rest of his life giving birth to two children, Edoardo (probably killed in 2001) and Margherita, married first to Alain Elkann (with whom she had three children, Jonh Jacob, Lapo and Ginevra) and then to Serge de Pahlen, a Russian nobleman (with whom she had five other children).
Finally, in 1966 Gianni Agnelli gets the lead of the FIAT; the years of the economic boom are now over, so he faces a rather complicated situation (the so-called “hot autumn”), characterized by strong social tensions. Despite this, in 1969 and 1970 acquires Ferrari and Lancia and opens new production units in Spain, Poland, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Argentina and Turkey.
Gianni Agnelli, history of a lawyer
In 1974 he was elected President of Confindustria, a position he held until 1976. A few years later, in 1979, he found himself forced to dismiss more than 14 thousand people because of a deep economic crisis, which placed him at the center of very hard clashes between the company, the unions and the Communist Party. As a result of the numerous pressures, Agnelli renounces the dismissals and opts for the redundancy fund of 23 thousand employees. This marks a definitive turning point for the FIAT.
Thanks to the support of Cesare Romiti, Gianni Agnelli manages to relaunch the company in the international field, transforming it into a multi-sector holding company, interested not only in cars, but also in publishing and insurance. The choice is successful and the president succeeds in establishing himself as a leading figure both in Italy and in the world, as well as becoming an icon of style and elegance because of his extravagant clothing (later taken over by his nephew Lapo) complete with watch on the cuff.
In 1991 Gianni Agnelli was appointed senator for life by Francesco Cossiga; in 1996 he decided to leave the presidency to fellow traveller Cesare Romiti, who was succeeded by Paolo Fresco. In fact, the place must have been Gianni’s brother, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli, who died prematurely from a brain tumor, which leaves room for Margherita’s eldest son, John Elkann.
Gianni Agnelli died in 2003 in his residence Villa Frescòt after facing a long illness. In his honor was set up a funeral chamber in the pinacoteca del Lingotto, while the funeral (broadcast live on Rai1) was held at the Cathedral of Turin.
Gianni Agnelli, the elegance of Myth through its most famous phrases
His image, his style, his way of communicating and approaching his employees will always remain in the heart of those who have known him, or of those who have simply had the opportunity to hear about it. And certainly, at least 15 sentences that he has spoken in his lifetime will remain memorable:
“Creativity is the greatest pleasure. It is the only added value of life, capable of understanding all the others”.
“Everything I have inherited. My grandfather did it all. I owe everything to the right of property and the right of succession, I have added the duty of responsibility to you”.
“My life coincides three quarters with that of Fiat. And my relationship with Fiat is half memory and half experience”.
em>”A master who does not require a business to make a profit is a bad master”.
“You can do everything, but the family can’t leave”.
em>”I met faithful husbands who were bad husbands. And I met unfaithful husbands who were good husbands. The two don’t necessarily go together”.
“Everyone is playboy. Everyone tries, some do, some don’t”.
em>”A man who doesn’t cry will never do great things”.
em>”Men fall into two categories: men talking about women and men talking to women. I prefer not to talk about women”.
“I have no passion for politics and politicians. I recognize that it is a necessary activity and indeed that, at least in theory, it is the noblest of all, the one that manages the interests of the polis, of the community. But I do not like the inevitable partiality of parties and the equally inevitable selfishness of those who lead them”.
“Don’t call me senator. Every time I hear this word I think of my grandfather, who is everything to me and the family. The senator is him. My stage name is Agnelli Lawyer, and that’s right”.
“Italy digests everything, its strength lies in the softness of the apparatus, in the plight of politicians, in the adaptability of Italians”.
“Not all Italians support the National Team, while all Italians and fifty percent of non-Italians support Ferrari”.
“Juve is for me the love of a lifetime, a source of joy and pride, but also of disappointment and frustration, however strong emotions, as can give a true and infinite love story”.
“The passion for art grows with maturity. My father took me as a child to visit museums because he believed that beauty educates, that taste refines from childhood, and he was right”