Umberto Agnelli, Italian industrialist 28 May
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Umberto Agnelli, Italian industrialist 28 May

Umberto Agnelli, Quiet Member of Fiat Dynasty, Dies at 69

Umberto Agnelli, who stepped into the limelight at Fiat, the Italian auto empire, after a lifetime in the shadow of relatives renowned for their flamboyance, died late Thursday in the family’s villa, La Mandria, outside Turin. He was 69.

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Umberto Agnelli (1 November 1934 – 27 May 2004) was an Italian industrialist and politician. He was the third son of Virginia Agnelli(born Donna Virginia Bourbon del Monte) and of Edoardo Agnelli, and the youngest brother of Gianni Agnelli.

He served as a CEO of Italian carmaker Fiat from 1970 to 1976[1] and, on the death of his brother Gianni, was briefly chairman of the FIAT Group, 2003–2004, until his own death, aged 69, the following year. He was also chairman and later honorary chairman of Juventus, the football team long-associated with FIAT and the Agnelli family, and was for a time the president of the Italian Football Association. He was a senator of the Italian Republic, from 1976 to 1979. In 2015, he was posthumously inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame

Umberto Agnelli (right) with Gianni Agnelli, 1965

Agnelli was chairman of FIAT-controlled Juventus Football Club between 1956–61 and was honorary chairman from 1970–2004.

Agnelli was chairman of Fiat France 1965–80, chief executive officer of Fiat SpA 1970–76 and vice-president 1976–93. He was chairman of Fiat Auto 1980–90 and a member of International Advisory Board 1993–2004.

Though he was a senior executive in the family company, Fiat, he was sidelined from taking a leadership role by his brother Gianni until the latter’s death in 2003. Only then did he take over as chairman of the whole Fiat Group, 2003–2004. The Group controlled several Italian newspapers and publishers in addition to the FIAT car-firms and Juventus.

Umberto was in the process of restoring Fiat’s fortunes, following a period in which the company’s balance sheet, market share and share value had all been in decline, when he suddenly died of lung cancer after barely 18 months in control. Despite this, Forbesmagazine estimated he was the world’s 68th richest man with an approximate net worth of US$5.5 billion. He was a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group

Family

Agnelli was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, the youngest of seven children. His life was beset by an unusual amount of tragedy and bereavement. His father Edoardo Agnelli perished in an air crash when he was one year old, and his mother Virginia died in a car accident ten years later when he was just 11 years old.

In 1959 Agnelli married the heiress Donna Antonella Bechi Piaggio, from the well-known business-family of Piaggio. They had three sons but their first, twin boys, died shortly after birth. The third son, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli, grew up to be the head of the maternal family-firm Piaggio, and was being groomed to succeed at Fiat, but died of cancer at the age of 33 in 1997.

Umberto and Antonella Agnelli later divorced, and in 1974 Umberto married Donna Allegra Caracciolo di Castagneto. Allegra is the first cousin of Umberto’s sister in law Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, the wife of his brother Giovanni (Gianni). The ladies come from the old Neapolitan noble family that has, among other, the titles of nobility of Prince of Castagneto and Duke of Melito.

Umberto and Allegra had two children: Andrea (born 1975) and Anna (born 1977). Andrea later followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming chairman of Juventus, in 2010.

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DEFINITION of ‘Umberto Agnelli’

Umberto Agnelli is a former chairman and CEO of Italian automaker Fiat and was one of the wealthiest men in Italy. Fiat, which stands for “Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino,” means Italian Automobile Factory of Turin. The company, founded in 1899, had long been the Agnelli family business, and Umberto Agnelli’s death, which came shortly after his older brother’s death, marked the first time the company’s board did not have a senior Agnelli among its members.

BREAKING DOWN ‘Umberto Agnelli’

Umberto Agnelli was born in 1934 in Lausanne, Switzerland to the princess of San Faustino, Virginia Bourbon del Monte, and her husband, Edoardo Agnelli. Agnelli lost his father to a plane crash when he was a year old and his mother in a car accident when he was 11. After graduating with a law degree from Turin University in 1959, he ran a small insurance company that initially worked only with Fiat but became one of the largest insurers in Italy under his guidance.

Umberto Agnelli Denied Chairmanship

We worked for Fiat in its French scooter division before serving as a Christian Democrat Senator for three years, then returning to Fiat. He was denied the chairmanship of the company by his older brother, Gianinni, whose goal was to put Umberto’s son, Giovanni, in the position instead. It was only after the tragic death of his son at age 33 that was he even considered for the role.

During Agnelli’s short term as chairman of Fiat (a post he only attained in 2003, the year before his death) he began to turn the then-failing company around. Fiat is the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy and one of the largest in the world, with about half of the company’s operations located abroad.

In addition to business, Agnelli was passionate about football. He spent time as the chairman of the Juventus football team and served as president of the Italian Football Association. He was honored for his dedication to the game by being inducted posthumously into the Italian Football Hall of fame in 2015.

Agnelli had two other sons with his first wife, but they died shortly after birth. He and his second wife had two more children, a girl, Anna, and a boy, Andrea, who shared his father’s love of football. Agnelli died in 2004 at age 69 from lung cancer. At the time of his death, he was named the 68th wealthiest man in the world, with an estimated worth of $5.5 billion.

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