There was God, then Jesus, and then Gianni Agnelli – so people used to say. Possibly the greatest, certainly the most stylish post-World War II industrialist Europe has ever seen.
Hardly surprising then that the 10th anniversary of his death was celebrated with suitable Agnelli-like aplomb in the city that became so synonymous with him, Turin. Agnelli was probably most famous for his link to Italy’s great automaker Fiat, which he turned into the biggest private sector employer in the country and a European manufacturing powerhouse. But he was also known for his extraordinary sense of fashion and playboy lifestyle.
A sprinkling of Italy’s great and good turned up to the special memorial service to mark the anniversary, including the country’s president Giorgio Napolitano, Agnelli’s grandson and Fiat chairman, John Elkann, the automaker’s chief executive Sergio Marchionne, and Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.
Football stars past and present from Juventus, the club owned by the Agnelli family, were also in attendance, like legendary goal-keeper Gigi Buffon and former star striker Alessandro Del Piero. Napolitano told the gathered crowd at Turin’s town hall: “He operated in the heart of society, showing a strong sense of institutions and democratic equilibrium. That was what marked him out, making him a protagonist of our public life as well as a central figure in the economic world."
Agnelli even got a shout out from the Pope when he died, with the late John Paul II sending a message about Agnelli's "Christian faith". Maybe there is something close to the truth in the adage about Agnelli after all.