A precocious CEO with the cherubic looks to match, Elkann’s moves have put Fiat back among the auto industry’s big boys.
John Jacob Philip Elkann joined the Fiat group board of directors in 1997 when he was only 22, his grandfather Gianni Agnelli, known as L’Avvocato, (the lawyer), anointing him as a future successor: "He is young, but the same age I was when I joined the board in 1943. He has already demonstrated to me that he possesses considerable moral fiber and business acumen, and I believe that this appointment is the most significant way to ensure the continuity of the family's closeness to Fiat, even symbolically."
Destined for greatness
John Elkann graduated from Turin Polytechnic, having, during his university years, already gained considerable work experience in various companies in the Fiat group. In 2001 he began working at General Electric as a member of the corporate audit staff with assignments in Asia, the United States and Europe. His star was in the ascendant and Elkann enjoyed soon found greater responsibility, when, in 2003, he successfully participated in the relaunch of the Fiat group.
“Elkann played a key role in the appointment of Sergio Marchionne as CEO of Fiat, the manager who transformed the Italian automotive giant into a competitive player on the world stage”
In 2004 Elkann played a key role in the appointment of Sergio Marchionne as CEO of Fiat, the manager who transformed the Italian automotive giant into a competitive player on the world stage. Following the growth path traced by Marchionne, at the end of 2019 Elkann announced the merger with the French group PSA, which should be completed in the first quarter of 2021 and give rise to a new holding company called Stellantis, which will control all the brands belonging to the two companies. The new group will be the fourth largest car manufacturer in the world, with FCA benefiting from PSA's success on the European market and the French group from its partner's considerable presence in North America and Brazil.
But cars are only part of the story. Elkann is also president of Gedi, one of Italy’s leading publishing groups and one of the largest shareholders in the prestige English weekly business and politics magazine, The Economist.
The investment in the Economist takes the family’s position in the media industry to a new level, but also illustrates the growing assertiveness of Gianni Agnelli’s handpicked heir.
He also takes an active involvent in the Agnelli family owned football club, Juventus, helping put in place the financing that has allowed the 'Old Lady' to become an all-conquering force in Serie A.
By moving head-first into media and other investments outside the traditional industrial interests of the Agnellis, Elkann is slowly but surely stepping out of his family’s long shadow.