(PrivateEquityCentral.net) Giovanni Agnelli, the patriarch of the family that controlled Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat and led private equity group EXOR, died earlier today at 81.
EXOR was active in
EXOR investments in
EXOR America was part of a larger private equity firm, EXOR Group, which is a key shareholder in Club Med and owns a majority stake in
The private equity landscape is heavily populated with former members of EXOR America. Such firms as Wellspring, Brera Capital Partners, Fenway Partners, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, and The Jordan
Cribiore got his start in 1970 from Agnelli, who sent him to
Describing his time at EXOR America, Cribiore said that Agnelli’s presence was felt even when he wasn’t in the office.
“He was very much the chairman of the board providing direction,” Cribiore said. “Everything had his approval.”
Joseph Haviv, a managing member of newly formed ProtoStar Partners, worked at EXOR America from 1994 to 1998. “Agnelli was really the visionary for the direction of the firm,” he said. “He was brilliant, classy, incisive with a tremendous business sense.”
Haviv, a former managing director of First Atlantic Capital, described Agnelli’s death as a major loss. “It’s the end of a dynasty, without question.”
Fiat was founded by Giovanni Agnelli’s grandfather in 1899. Under Agnelli, Fiat added to its auto empire by acquired carmakers Lancia, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. Under Agnelli’s 30-year stewardship, Fiat expanded into aerospace, insurance, and telecommunications. In 2000, General Motors bought a 20 per cent stake in Fiat Auto with Fiat retaining an option to sell GM the rest in 2004.
Fiat had slumped to 20-year lows after slumping sales of its autos. Through the first nine months of 2002, the company had revenues of E40.7bn. The Agnelli family was in its hometown of
In December, as part of an effort to cut costs and boost the bottom line, Fiat’s truck unit Iveco sold truck-rental company Fraikin to a consortium of French buyers, including Eurazeo, Pragma-Capital, and UI Fraikin estimated 2002 sales in excess of E570m.
Agnelli was also largely credited with helping to revitalize the Italian economy after World War II. In 1991 he was made a life senator of
“He was the greatest industrialist in