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Giovanni Agnelli

Also Known As: "Gianni", "Giovanni Agnelli Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI"
Birthdate: (81)
Birthplace: Parent's home, Turin, Piedmont, Italy
Death: January 24, 2003 (81)
Turin, Italy (Prostate cancer)
Place of Burial: Turin, Italy
Immediate Family:

Son of Edoardo Agnelli and Virginia Agnelli
Husband of <private> Agnelli (Caracciolo di Castagneto)
Father of Edoardo Agnelli and <private> Elkann (Agnelli)
Brother of Clara Agnelli; Susanna 'Suni' Agnelli; <private> Agnelli; Countess Cristiana Brandolini d’Adda; Umberto Agnelli and 2 others
Half brother of Countess Cristiana Brandolini d’Adda

Occupation: Italian industrialist, Business
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Gianni Agnelli

better known as Gianni Agnelli, was an Italian industrialist and principal shareholder of Fiat. As the head of Fiat, he controlled 4.4% of Italy's GDP, 3.1% of its industrial workforce, and 16.5% of its industrial investment in research.

As a public figure, Agnelli was also known worldwide for his impeccable, slightly eccentric fashion sense, which has influenced both Italian and international men’s fashion.

In 1935 when his father died in an accident, it was his grandfather, Giovanni Agnelli, founder of the Fiat factory, who took a special interest in his first grandson. When he was eighteen his grandfather sent him on a two-month tour of U.S. auto plants. "We always wanted to know what was going on in Detroit," said Gianni.After a stint at the stark Pinerolo cavalry academy, a family tradition, he studied law at the University of Turin. Hence his nickname, l'Avvocato, the lawyer, though he never practised law. He then joined a tank regiment in June 1940 when Italy entered World War II.

Sent to the Russian front, he was wounded twice and nearly lost a finger to frostbite on the retreat home. He then went in a Fiat-built armoured-car unit to North Africa. Here he was wounded again, shot in the arm by a German officer during a bar fight over a woman. When Italy surrendered in September 1943, Lieutenant Agnelli took his Cross for Military Valor and switched sides. Joining the Legnano Group, an outfit that fought alongside General Mark Clark's Fifth Army, he ended the war as a liaison officer with the Americans. Grandfather Giovanni, who had continued to manufacture vehicles for the Axis throughout the war, was forced to retire from the company he had founded, but allowed to name as his successor his right-hand man, the canny Vittorio Valletta. Late in 1945, three weeks after Giannis mother died, Giovanni Agnelli died, leaving Gianni, at the age of twenty-four, the head of the family. Shortly before he died, Giovanni advised his grandson not to settle down right away, but to let Valletta run Fiat as regent. "He told me to have a fling for a few years, to sow my wild oats and get it out of my system, and then maybe I would become a serious man," Agnelli recalled.

With Mussolini dead, Valletta discovered that Italian consumers were better customers than the state. Helped by the Marshall Plan, Fiat soon started cranking out the 500 model, Italy's first cheap mass-produced car. In the meantime, Gianni took his grandfather's advice to heart and made a beeline for the fast lane---yachts, pretty young women, nightclub carousing and huge casino wagers. Well before Gianni became chairman of Fiat in 1966, his business skills making him a fixture on the financial pages, he was a gossip-column Hall of Famer, known for his effortless grace of his pursuits and conquests. Anita Ekberg, Linda Christian, Danielle Darrieux and countless other beauties fell for his charms. However, he was easily bored and, according to Bill Paley, was "The most restless man in the world". For much of his life he was in constant need for new experiences and new women. He became known throughout Europe as "the uncrowned king". A German magazine once ran a frontal photo of Gianni, standing naked on the deck of his sailboat, captioned "the man who has everything".

In 1948 he began a five-year affaire with Pamela Churchill, the ex-daughter-in-law of Sir Winston Curchill. However, Gianni was unfaithful and became more blatantly so as the years went on. In 1952 Pamela surprised him in their bedroom with a young girl. She threw them both out and Agnelli, while driving the girl home, was involved in a car accident and grievously injured. His right leg, which had been broken before, was crushed and broken in several places. A plaster cast was too tight and caused gangrene and, as he had taken cocaine, the required operation could only be performed under a local anesthetic. Pamela was present and covered his eyes while the operation was performed. Gianni's recovery, which Pamela supervised, took months. Afterwards she became pregnant but had an abortion in Switzerland. Pamela began to give up hope of ever marrying him and, when Princess Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto became pregnant to him, Pamela suggested that he marry her.

On 19 November 1953 Giovanni Agnelli did marry Princess Marella and they became the parents of a son and a daughter. Many years later Marella said about her husband: "For Gianni, a woman is to be conquered, not to be loved."

By 1993, the Fiat conglomerate controlled Fiat, Alfa Romeo,Ferrari, Lancia, the newspaper 'La Stampa', the Juventus soccer team, Chateau Margaux vineyards, retail department stores, insurance and food companies. It was rated the equivalent of Ford, Chrystler, General Motors, the 'New York Times' and other businesses together worth fifty billion dollars and which employed three hundred thousand people. With a personal fortune of more than $3 billion, he was the richest man in Italy. His opulent apartment in Rome is part of a seventeenth-century palace which sits atop the Quirinale hill, across the piazza from the residence of the president of Italy.

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Gianni Agnelli's Timeline

March 12, 1921
Turin, Piedmont, Italy
- 1939
Age 13
Pinerolo, Turin, Italy
- 1950
Age 23
Turin, Turin, Italy
June 9, 1954
Age 33
- 2003
Age 44
Turin, Italy
- 1996
Age 44
Turin, Italy
Age 69
Turin, Italy
January 24, 2003
Age 81
Turin, Italy