Giovanni ‘Gianni’ Agnelli Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI OML OMCA CGVM CMG; (12 March 1921 – 24 January 2003) was an Italian industrialist and principal shareholder of Fiat.
Born into a wealthy and privileged family, he lived in the ‘fast lane’, metaphorically and actually, and became one of the wealthiest men in modern Italian history.
A propellor decapitated his father in a seaplane accident; his mother was strangled by her scarf in a motor car accident. Despite this, he always tried to brush everything away with a joke and elude emotional bonds with people.
Following his father’s death, his Nonno (grandfather) called for him and explained that he would become the heir to the industrial conglomerate his father had created.
Nonno’s advice, ‘Learn the business and have fun’, and learn the business and have fun, he certainly did.
He sacrificed his law studies at the University of Turin and went to war on the Eastern Front, where he was injured, again in North Africa, where he was shot in the arm by a German Officer in a fight over a woman.
A man of many names: L’Avvocato (the Lawyer), Prince of Italy, King of Italy, and the Rake of the Riviera.
Gianni was not only a symbol of economic growth and Italian excellence but of an unwavering reckless passion for life.
‘Every woman in the world was in love with him, and every man in the world wanted to be him,’ said the designer Diane von Fürstenberg.