January 25th 2003. The world wakes up to the news of the death of Gianni Agnelli, the emblematic boss of Fiat. Not long after came the news that L'avvocato – as Agnelli was nicknamed – had appointed his grandson, John Elkann, as his successor.
Year took up current function: 2010
Turnover in 2018: $110.4bn
Growth in 2018: 13.5%
Aged just 21 at the time and with the demeanor of a dandy, but with an impressive academic track record and his grandfather’s head for business, the maker of the most famous line of sportscars in the world now had a new name in the driver’s seat. Content to keep a low profile during his early years as Fiat boss, Elkann’s strength of character was soon revealed during a crisis period which almost put the venerable Italian company out of business. In 2004 an encounter with Sergio Marchionnie, who would go on to become an independent member of the Turin-based car manufacturer’s board, helped set in motion a plan that would turn around the fortunes of the ailing auto-company.
The merger with Chrysler, the stock market listing of Ferrari, the sale of underperforming assets, such as La Stampa newspaper and the auto-components manufacturer Magneti Marelli, allowed the young director to gradually uncouple the capitalization of Fiat over the last five years, whose value has now risen to over $18 billion. Emboldened by his success, Elkann created a stir in the automobile world with a bid to buy Renault, an offer that was abruptly withdrawn while negotiations were at an advanced stage, Turin citing the heavy hand of the French finance ministry. Is this the end of the road for the deal? Not if rumors of an imminent renewal of formal negotiations are to be believed. Should the deal to buy the French car company go through, Elkann would preside over the No.3 auto group in the world, behind Toyota and Volkswagon.