Ferrari: Wonderkid keeps family hands on the black horse
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FERRARI: Wonderkid keeps family hands on Ferrari’s famous black horse
When an incredible collection of rare cars was uncovered in a French barn last year, it was no surprise that out of 60 vintage models, a rare Ferrari turned out to be the most valuable by a long stretch.Under piles of dusty newspapers was a rusting 1961 Ferrari 250 SWB California Spyder that collectors had been trying to track down for more than 40 years.
Despite needing a full restoration, the classic, just one of 37 ever built, sold for an eye-watering $23m in February, making it the fifth-most expensive car ever to change hands.
Almost 80 years after Enzo Ferrari, a race car manufacturer and driver, reluctantly moved his company into road car production, the company’s prancing black stallion logo still represents an irresistible cocktail of speed, luxury and wealth that captures the imagination more than any other brand in the world.
The enduring allure of the Italian luxury car marque is expected to trigger a stampede among investors later this year when it floats on the New York stock exchange. The listing, tipped to value Ferrari at pounds 10bn, is likely to be the most talked about of 2015.
While fund managers scramble to own even the merest sliver of the venerable carmaker, the share offering will be carefully structured to ensure that it is still controlled by one of the most powerful dynasties on the planet - Italy’s Agnelli clan.
Under a convoluted corporate structure, Ferrari is part of Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA), which is among a string of assets that together form the family’s massive holding company Exor. The Agnellis, who are about as close to royalty as Italy has ever had, own interests in commercial property, banking, media, and heavy equipment, estimated to be worth around euros 150bn.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, left, is flanked by chairman John Elkann during the new Alfa Romeo Giulia official presentation in Italy last month. Picture/AP.
The man tasked with overseeing the sprawling Exor empire is John Elkann, a family member who was catapulted on to the board of Fiat at the age of 21.Elkann was thrust into the spotlight by his grandfather Gianni Agnelli, Italy’s most famous industrialist and a man famed for his sartorial elegance, maverick ways, and for turning Fiat into Italy’s biggest manufacturer.
Agnelli had built Fiat into a global powerhouse but by the time he was ready to hand over the reins,it was close to bankruptcy. His chosen heir was nephew Giovanni, but with his death shortly after inheriting the family’s Fiat stake, control passed to Elkann and he found himself on Fiat’s board two years after finishing university.
Until then, the young Elkann’s experience of the workplace had consisted of a series of placements at factories around Europe, including a stint at a Fiat-owned headlight plant in the Midlands.He went incognito, staying with a Birmingham couple who, oblivious to Elkann’s illustrious roots, allowed him to eat dinner from a tray in front of the television sitting next to the family dog.
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding his sudden rise to the top, Elkann, known as Jaki by family members, has unexpectedly gone from a gangly, accidental executive to one of the most respected figures in the business world thanks to his remarkable turnaround of Fiat.
The company had been all but written off by experts, but Elkann plucked Sergio Marchionne from SGS, an Agnelli-owned Swiss product inspection company, to run Fiat in 2004.Together the pair pulled Fiat back from the brink of collapse and within a few years embarked on a daring tie-up with American car giant Chrysler in 2009, while the financial crisis was still reverberating.
The move proved all the more courageous because Elkann later had to give his blessing to the dilution of the Agnellis’ Fiat stake after 115 years in the family’s hands in order to pave the way for a full-blown merger.Elkann’s stewardship was so impressive that in 2011 he was handed full control of Exor, a move that also proved to be inspired. After a major diversification of the Agnellis’ interests away from cars, Exor’s value has rocketed.
But Elkann is determined to retain a tight grip on Ferrari. With the help of investment banks UBS, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs, the firm is on course to list in the autumn. Although 10pc of the company is expected to be sold to new investors, and 80pc going to Fiat Chrysler shareholders, the float is set to be structured so that the Agnellis and Piero Ferrari, son of the carmaker’s founder, retain 51pc of voting rights.
Nearly half a century after Fiat bought a stake in Ferrari, the shiny black horse has lost nothing of its magnetic appeal.