Lapo Elkann (2 Viewers)


The Jackal
Jan 14, 2005
Lapo Elkann has already had a lunch with the FT. On our first outing we ate escalope and cherry tomatoes and dissected the problems of Italy, youth and business.

But the interview went unprinted. Something went wrong between plate and print. There were drug overdoses, demons and darkness. Elkann almost died.:confused2

He is one of the Agnelli family, founders of the Fiat group, and wildly famous in Italy where he is a cross between a royal prince and a Kennedy. His grandfather Gianni Agnelli was the man who made Fiat great. In the enduring soap opera of the family members’ lives, Elkann had a bleak cocaine episode in Turin not long after our first lunch and then went into rehab in Arizona.

Elkann cleaned up, bought an apartment in Manhattan and dropped out of sight. There were no more paparazzi pictures of him out on the town with Martina Stella, his model/actress girlfriend. The couple split up.

More than a year has passed and here we are again for lunch number two. We are in the Trattoria Torre di Pisa, a warren of cosy eating rooms in the trendy Brera district of Milan. It is his first post-overdose interview.

Elkann arrives on time, in a manner for which the phrase “breezes in” was invented, with a handshake and smile for everyone. He seems more flamboyant than before. His hair is longer - “Last year I had my hair very short like a marine’s, now it is more like a lion’s” - and he gives off energy, chattering excitedly and repetitively.

Before he sits down, Elkann points at his shoes, which have been painted to resemble a small car on each foot; wheels on the side by his heels and toes.:rofl:

The shoes are a marketing idea for the relaunch later in 2007 of Fiat’s pint-sized Cinquecento car. The original Fiat 500, star of Hollywood films 50 years ago, went out of production in 1972.

Elkann, 29, is due to talk about the shoes with Nike later that day. The idea is part of his renewed contacts with Fiat, where before his collapse he held a marketing job and had been successfully reinjecting sex and cool into a group that had grown frigid and staid. He has not rejoined the company but is playing a role in the Cinquecento launch.

Elkann and his elder brother John are the only two members of the 160-strong Agnelli family still involved in Fiat. John - known as Yaki within the family - is vice-chairman of the group and has been groomed for senior corporate responsibility.

Lapo speaks warmly about his brother, both for his support during the crisis and for his advice on a forthcoming business venture. The younger brother is putting his own money into a fashion company he has called Italia Independent. It launched this month with a line of sunglasses.

My brother is a million times more talented than I am in the financial world so advice from him is like gold dust for me,” Elkann says.

Italia Independent is meant to hold out hope for Italian youth and talent, which Elkann believes is being frustrated by a gerontocracy mired in bureaucracy. Elkann would like his company to be a beacon of something else. “My dream is to give young people the opportunity to be able to do things without having to play politics. Politics ruins creativity.”

In Italian business, he says, “there is wasted time, useless conversation, e-mails which go back and forth and don’t bring ideas to life.” And he hints darkly at how people are stifled, clearly reflecting some personal experience: “When you innovate you irritate, particularly in an old country with old people who rule the country.”

Giovanni Accongiagioco, the chief executive of Italia Independent, is 27. “I don’t care where the people come from for my company,” says Elkann. “I care about the brain, the energy and the talent.”

Elkann was born in New York, raised in Brazil and the UK and studied in France. He is an eclectic gatherer of best practice: happy to praise what he likes about other places and cultures, and often comparing Italy unfavourably with them. He mentions several times that he loves “his country” and owes much to it, as a preface to further criticism.

The UK, he says, is home to some of the best creative and marketing minds. “In New York, what counts is what you deliver and not what you appear to be. A grey suit and a blue tie is not needed. What is needed is talent. In Italy appearance counts more than talent.”

Elkann’s own appearance is taken very seriously by others. He was once ranked by Vanity Fair as one of the world’s best-dressed men. For our lunch he arrives in a double-breasted tweed jacket and takes it off immediately to reveal a lime shirt, the buttons open almost to the chest. There are chains and a pendant declaring that he is a fan of Valentino Rossi, the Italian motorcycle racer.

His sleeves are rolled up, as they were at our previous meeting when I had been surprised by the tattoos on his arms. Now I notice they have multiplied. One wrist now has a huge shield of Juventus. The Turin football team, one of the most famous in the world, is controlled by his family and was sent down a division before the start of the current season for its part in a match-fixing scandal.

On the other wrist is a large Italian flag, which Elkann says has taken the place of a tattoo to his ex, Martina Stella.

Once we are well into the meal Elkann apologises for his lack of formality, semi-seriously, and in keeping with his effortlessly well-bred and attentive manner: “I’m sorry I have no tie, if you want to take yours off, you can.”:lol2: I am wearing my all-purpose drab brown suit and dull striped tie. I keep it on.

Torre di Pisa’s menu is small, but it’s the kind of place where people tend to order off-menu and ask for whatever they want. Elkann is precise, ordering a chicory salad with anchovies and specifying the oil and lemon dressing. When meat arrives later it has been flavoured with mustard and peperoncino as requested.

Elkann orders a Diet Coke, saying that he was always only a very occasional drinker of alcohol and is off it altogether now. Much later I realised how thoughtless I had been, forgetting not just manners but solidarity by ordering some red wine just for me.:oops:

He has cut down on the caffeine too, explaining that he’ll have just four espressos and four decaffeinated coffees a day when in Italy. Before the rehab he was on 12 espressos a day. (In the US, he drinks a double espresso caramel macchiato from Starbucks. No need for added sugar.)

Before the overdose, Elkann had been putting the Fiat brand on clothing and accessories in an effort to promote the company to a younger generation. Italia Independent is pitched partly at the same trendy crowd. The plan is to launch with sunglasses and then add other lines. The goal, he explains in marketing-speak, is to “make products that make people dream”. It’s a brand meant to tap into the demand for customisation, offering buyers the chance to choose how their sunglasses are engraved.

He says: “I don’t call my products accessories, I call them personal belongings. they are personal to me but I want them to become personal to you.”

Elkann’s patter can sound just as packaged when talking about the overdose and its aftermath. “I got myself into some trouble,” he says. “I made errors. I recognise that I have made them. I have had a lot of people who have been very good to me and supportive.”

The impact of such statements can be lost in their repetition, but there is sincerity in his conversation and some of the mantra comes from interesting places. Elkann once worked for Henry Kissinger, and he says they’ve talked recently in the US.

Kissinger has been “very supportive”. “He took me for lunch and he told me to look ahead, [that] everyone makes mistakes. he said the important thing was to recognise the mistakes and then make your life the one you really dream of living.”

The new, clean Elkann goes to the gym, and has already been when we have lunch - his excuse for ordering a fair amount of food. Training “takes away the tension”, he says. “The life I led [before] wouldn’t allow me to take care of myself as much as I should have.”

He has also been clearing out his entourage. “The advantage I have had is to clean up my world, to find out who my friends are. Who are the people who really care about me? Who are the real people around me and who are the fake people?”

And he has been tackling what he describes as an attention disorder, looking directly at me and saying: “If I am speaking with you I am not looking at the lady taking away the glasses or the waiter who is taking away the prosciutto.”

One of the staff is later stalled politely for some time while Elkann finishes a point. His enthusiasm makes him easy to agree with: when we are finally offered dessert he asks if I have ever eaten persimmon. I haven’t, and he tells me I should try it so I do. It’s orange, very succulent and sweet.

To finish off, Elkann orders a decaf coffee and lights a second cigarette. Not every vice has been ejected. He talks often about being “himself”, a conviction that seems to have grown after his drug experiences. “I want to be real,” he says. “If yesterday I was Lapo Elkann, today I am more Lapo than ever.”

Adrian Michaels is the FT’s Milan correspondent.

Trattoria Torre di Pisa, Milan

1 x plate mozzarella

1 x plate meatballs

2 x chicory salads with anchovies

2 x pounded steaks with mustard and peperoncino

1 x plate persimmon

2 x sparkling mineral water

1 x Diet Coke

1 x bottle house red wine

1 x espresso

1 x decaf espresso

Total: E84

Financial Times


2013 Prediction Cup Champ
Jul 16, 2002
I'm not fooled...

this guy is an embarassment...nothing more than a strung-out junkie, and with him having any power or say over our team will only lead to more misfortunes for our team

all we can hope for is that the next time he overdoses, it finishes him off


Senior Member
Jul 12, 2002
Off-field distractions, unfortunately, aren't exactly luxuries we can afford right now. For such a high profile figure he certainly doesn't seem to have any qualms about making a public fool of himself, and while in my mind it seems highly unlikely that he will be replaced anytime soon, I do hope he does distance himself from the team as much as possible to avoid dragging the Juventus name in the mud;evidently Elkann doesn't consider the implications of his actions very often.


Senior Member
Dec 18, 2005
Good read. Thx for posting.

160 Agnelli family member and only 2 involved in the business was quite surprising. I guess the rest just sit back and collect the cash.


Senior Member
Jun 24, 2003
I agree with Vinman, when he says that Lapo is an embarassment.

Anyway, as for the members of the Agnelli family, you can see them here:

While everyone inherited their share of money, the Agnellis always passed the control of the companies to their sons. The rest of the family isn't involved in them and is mostly made of managers of other branches and of an actor (Pietro Sermonti, who also played in our youth teams), a singer, some politicians, writers and intellectuals.

Giovanni Agnelli (I) passed the companies to his only son, Edoardo (the one who entered in the Juventus world in the '20s), who died prematurely (as many of the members of the family, it's no wonder that the Agnelli are called the "Italian Kennedys"). The power went to the only 2 Edorado's sons who arrived to turn 40: Giovanni (Gianni) and Umberto.
Their sons are: Giovanni Alberto Agnelli ("Giovannino"), Edoardo Agnelli and Andrea Agnelli.
Edoardo committed suicide and wasn't anyway considered "reliable" enough. The designed heir was Umberto's Giovanni, a great manager and, also, a true Juventino. He died in 1997 of a rare form of cancer and one of the last things he did before he died was going to see one last match at "Delle Alpi".

Being about to lose the perfect heir, Umberto and Gianni decided to split the fortune in 2 parts: the companies concerning cars and the rest. Gianni's heir was to inherit the formers and Umberto's Andrea was to inherit the rest (Juventus included).

Gianni chose John Elkann as his heir and made him enter in the Fiat board when he was still very young. Lapo didn't enter in the plans as more than the director of Fiat's marketing.

Umberto took Juventus (with the rest of the non-cars companies) in his hands in 1994 and it was him who chose Giraudo (who, later, chose Moggi and Bettega). Andrea remained very close to the Triade also after his father's passing. In fact, you probably remember, this May, before Juve-Palermo, he was on the field together with Moggi and Giraudo, while John was outside the stadium distancing himself from the ones who managed to win everything without money, even though there had been no trial yet.

After the summer scandal, the Elkanns stripped Juve from the hands of Andrea, who is waiting for a chance to get it back. It seems that the Agnellis and the Elkanns are not the best of friends, wonder why :rolleyes2


Senior Member
Jun 24, 2003
Yeah, the Elkanns are the sons of Gianni's daughter and they took Juventus from their quasi-cousin Andrea and got rid of the board named by their great uncle Umberto.

On an official point of view, the scandal was the "proof" that Juventus wasn't in good hands (Andrea's).
On a more practical point of view, the Triade (read: Giraudo) was gaining more and more status among the Ifil's managers and Giraudo has never had a good relationship with Montezemolo (Gianni's side of the "family", even though he's not officially part of it). Once Montezemolo found a way to get rid of the "umbertiani", he took it.

Im confused. Y are they fighting over Juventus? They're a part of the same family.
When money is involved, sometimes families prove to be very fragile institutions. :wallbang:
Plus, they are two branches of a very multicultural family and they developped in two very different environments.

Different environments often mean different points of view: in this case, the Elkanns are under the wing of Montezemolo, while Andrea (and his father Umberto) is very close to Giraudo (even before he came to work for Juve).


Senior Member
Jun 24, 2003
Maybe, but he was one of Italy's best managers. Surely one of the best in the European football world.

Edit: And, I forgot to add, for a club like ours, that has to live on its own resourches, having a manager like him was vital.

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