The House of Agnelli Divided

The Agnelli Family have long been heralded as the Kennedys of Italy. In fact, Jackie and Gianni were rumored to be quite close after Jackie married Aristotle Onassis. Not only has the Agnelli family endured suicides and drug over-doses, but they’ve also captivated the world of couture for the past fifty years.

Gianni Agnelli was the epitome of Italian fashion, both in his day and after – Esquire recently named him one of the five best dressed men in the history of the world. He was the embodiment of sprezzatura, to say nothing of a shrewd and brilliant businessman who amassed a massive fortune in his life.

Now that Gianni Agnelli has passed on, an estate of somewhere between $3 billion and $5 billion sits with the Fiat company. And that’s the problem – no one is really sure how much it is, and the men who do know aren’t talking. And so a lawsuit has been filed by Magherita, Agnelli’s only daughter, which has divided her not only from her father’s long-time consiglieri, but also from her own family.

After being given the run-around days after her father’s death (such as being told her presence “wasn’t needed” when his last will and testament was read), and then fearing her mother had been strong-armed by her father’s business partners into “donating” her own share of stock to Fiat, Margherita’s request is simple: she just wants a full accounting of her father’s assets upon his death.

Her father’s business advisors (Gianluigi Gabetti, Franzo Grande Stevens, and Siegfried Maron) provided her only with a partial listing – Agnelli’s assets in Italy, only, in spite of the fact that he owned real estate around the world, and had numerous other cash sources in various countries. (Gianni left $6 million in his Swiss checking account alone.) Margherita is now asking for an accurate and full accounting, which one would think would be her right.

The only problem with that is once an accurate estimate of Agnelli’s fortune is known, it becomes more difficult to protect from the government and taxes. And the concern is that, while the majority of the fortune now seems to sit with Fiat, if the full amount is made known, then his heirs (including Margherita) might start requesting what some might consider their due inheritance. Gabetti, Stevens, and Maron’s solution to this problem is not business-minded, but personal: they’ve recommended that the entire Agnelli family shun Margherita until the entire thing goes away.

But it’s not going away, as Vanity Fair detailed in this month’s issue. It’s not going away, because Margherita, like her father, is a warrior.

The Women Who Wanted the Secrets by Mark Seal | Vanity Fair | August 2008

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