Giovanni, nicknamed L’Avvocato (lawyer) Agnelli died on 24th January 2003, 10 years on Swide pays tribute to an Italian icon like no other.
was the closest thing Italy had to royalty post WWII. Though he came from an industrial family, with little or almost no aristocratic heritage, he and his family had the allure of anointed ones. The family commanded such interest and admiration in Italy, that it is fair to say his position was comparable to that of a king. Unfortunately the characteristics that made the family so strong have all but disappeared but at one time, Agnelli certainly resembled one. As majority stakeholder in FIAT, he controlled 4.4% of Italy's GDP, 3.1% of its industrial workforce, and 16.5% of its industrial investment in research. He was the richest man in modern Italian history.
Like the famed Onassis and the Kennedy dynasties, the Agnellis held a prominent position in international society, yet were plagued by ill health and bad luck. Agnelli’s only son, Edoardo committed suicide in 2000 and his nephew, Umberto, who was being groomed to take over the company upon L’Avvocato’s death, died of cancer in 1997.
In his early life though, Gianni Agnelli was much more than an industrialist heir and future leader of FIAT, he was an icon of Italian style and charisma. Though married to Countess Marella Caracciolo, Agnelli had a number of infamous affairs, from Anita Ekberg to Pamela Herriman, demonstrating that his “darker side” only furthered his appeal.
His good taste went further than women, as throughout his life he amassed a museum-worthy collection of art including the work of the Italian Futurists and four Monets, which he famously housed in a dedicated room in his Park Avenue Penthouse in New York. Many works from his collection have now been donated to the city of Turin, his hometown to which he remained close to throughout his jet-setting life.
His attachment to the city of Turin was furthered by his love of their biggest football team, Juventus. Not only did the Agnellis own the club (and they still do) but L’Avvocato was a permanent fixture at their games, and took an active interest in the running of the club, he famously used to telephone the AD every morning at six, from anywhere in the world for updates.
Gianni Agnelli was a lover of the Made in Italy and a lover of beautiful things, including cars, and Ferraris amongst them. Ferrari lived under the FIAT car-manufacturing umbrella, and the patriarch of the company was a very big fan of both the racing team and the car itself. He owned many, and in tribute to him, the Scuderia Ferrari named their 2003 F1 contender the F2002-GA, after him.
A lover of fast cars and beautiful things, Agnelli had a unique taste in fashion, coining many unique looks. The cuff of his shirt would always peek out of his jumpers or blazer sleeves and he famously used to wear his watch over the shirt cuff. His collection of bespoke Caraceni suits, bastions of Italian tailoring and “bel vestire”, were often matched to unusual shoes or even with his tie worn askew. His fashion choices were studied, yet his looks seemed natural, extolling the classic Italian style of looking perfect, with a twist and making it all seem so easy.
Giovanni Agnelli was probably Italy’s most well-known personality abroad, he dined with royalty and politicians, and his style remains emblematic of the Italian gentleman.