AGNELLI: Fiat and the Network of Italian Power by Alan Friedman

AGNELLI: Fiat and the Network of Italian Power

Email this review


Dashing and diplomatic Giovanni Agnelli, heir to the Fiat fortune, transformed himself from a legendary international playboy to become the most powerful man in Italy. Now, Friedman, the London Financial Times Milan bureau chief, traces the remarkable three-generation rise of the Agnelli family to the pinnacle of industrial and political power in contemporary Italy. Today, Agnelli interests control an incredible one quarter of the shares traded on the Italian stock exchange. Friedman details how Agnelli's stem grandfather preserved Fiat by cooperating with Mussolini. After WW II, Vittorio Valletta managed Fiat, while young Agnelli embarked on a legendary career as an international playboy. In 1966, at the age of 45, Giovanni Agnelli replaced Valletta. Many doubted that this playboy-cum-industrialist could successfully lead so vast and technical an enterprise as Fiat, but, after a decade of false steps, Agnelli has decisively proved the skeptics wrong. In the 1970's, Agnelli quelled industrial unrest, diversified into financial and media enterprises, and established a network of influence that spans the globe. Friedman reveals that Agnelli-controlled companies have engaged in a number of shady deals, e.g., supplying sensitive missile technology to an Argentine project financed by Iraq and Libya. Friedman also shows how Agnelli has thrived in the nearly feudal structure of contemporary Italian business and politics. Nevertheless, Agnelli's reputation has remained largely unsullied, since he lets his henchman do most of the dirty work. As Italy opens up to the post-1992 Common Market, the cozy arrangements and networks of influence that have served Agnelli so well may begin to break down. Nonetheless, it's likely that Agnelli will remain a powerful force to be reckoned with in international business. Occasionally marred by overhyped prose, but, still, a fascinating analysis of the life and times of one of the last great capitalists of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1989
Publisher: New American Library