a look back at the destiny of an uncrowned monarch

Gianni Agnelli and his son Edoardo Agnelli, in the 1990s.


Little Gianni facing Mussolini. Gianni playboy living la dolce vita before his time. Gianni ruthless but courageous boss in “years of lead”. Gianni geopolitician opening his factories in the Soviet Union, his capital in Gaddafi… But also Gianni struck by the curse: his father, his son, his nephew tragically disappeared…

The documentary story produced by Héloïse Rambert for “Affairs Sensitives” (in partnership with the sports daily The Team), with the voice of Fabrice Drouelle and the music – among others – of Adriano Celentano, has the appearance of a panegyric, as was done in Antiquity to leave history with the trace of this or that emperor.

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The magnate of Italian industry, Giovanni, known as Gianni Agnelli (1921-2003), grandson of the founder of Fiat (who was also called Giovanni), was indeed an emperor. The patrician with silver temples, slim, tanned, elegant, “pleases like an actor and, because fortune enlightens him, he is a winnersaid Federico Fellini. Put him on horseback, he’s a king.”

“Unifying figure”

A monarch with almost divine right – in 1977, according to a survey, 99% of Italians said they had “heard of” the pope, 100% knew Gianni Agnelli! All of Italy is and finds itself in this uncrowned dynasty: from Juventus of Turin to Ferrari, from the family home of Villar Perosa (from the 18th century) – with its mausoleum worthy of that of Hadrian, in Rome – to there Giovanni-et-Marella-Agnelli Pinacotecainstalled at the top of Lingotto, the historic Fiat factory in Turin, with its impressive collection of futurists, impressionists, works by Matisse, Pico, Modigliani, Manet, Renoir, Balthus, Bacon…

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“We know where we are and we know where we want to go”declared the “Avvocato” – which never was, an advocate, except that of post-war Italy and the “thirty glorious years” – in a speech that remained in the annals at the end of the “years of lead », whose tragic climax will be the ination of Aldo Moro, former chairman of the board, in 1978. Faced with the Red Brigades, “the patriarch became a sort of unifying figure for the country”.

Read the obituary: Article reserved for our subscribers Giovanni Agnelli, the lord of bosses

This manifest destiny, we would say in the United States, punctuated by the essential voice of Radio France’s most podcasted journalist, will end tragically. The senator for life had become “the ghost of himself” since the suicide in November 2000 of his son Edoardo, “crushed by his surname and his heritage”, to whom he had not been able, and above all not wanted, to p on the keys to the kingdom. It is today chaired by his grandson John Elkann, which ended up merging it with Peugeot, Citroën and Chrysler to form this “European General Motors” that Gianni had dreamed of. The king is dead, the empire remains.

Gianni Agnelli, the last king of Italy, by Héloïse Rambert (Fr., 2023, 55 min).

Pascal Galinier

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