topbanner ad

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Roberto Colaninno

Italian business titan and Piaggio Chair Roberto Colaninno dies at age 80

Following the announcement of the August 15th death of Piaggio Chair and CEO Roberto Colaninno at the age of 80, Piaggio & C. S.p.A. (PIA.MI) moved to confirm a new senior management corporate structure in early September.

His two sons, who inherit their father's 51.1% controlling stake in Piaggio parent company IMMSI (IMSI.MI), have been appointed to the key senior management roles. Director Matteo Colaninno, 52, has been appointed to the post of Executive Chair, with powers largely consistent with those he held previously.

Michele Colaninno

Director Michele Colaninno, 46, who was already Chief Executive of global strategy, product, marketing and innovation, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer. Michele Colannino is additionally CEO and COO of IMMSI and is the current serving president of the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM, Brussels).

The Piaggio board also coopted Carlo Zanetti as a new non-executive director, so keeping the number of board members unchanged. The nine members of the Piaggio & C. S.p.A. Board of Directors are now therefore Matteo Colaninno (Executive Chair), Michele Colaninno (CEO), Graziano Gianmichele Visentin (independent director), Rita Ciccone (independent director), Patrizia Albano (independent director), Federica Savasi, Micaela Vescia (independent director), Andrea Formica (independent director) and Carlo Zanetti.

Matteo Colaninno

Roberto Colaninno was admired and reviled in equal measure, but there is no doubting the profoundly positive impact he and his family have had in turning Piaggio from a famed but failing Italian business into a profitable and increasingly progressive conglomerate.

Colaninno acquired Piaggio in 2003 and moved quickly to buy both Aprilia and Moto Guzzi in 2004.  One of Italy's best known financial deal makers, per Reuters, Colaninno was a central figure in the country's industrial landscape who managed to turn around a number of failing companies, but also left a mixed corporate legacy.

"He is most famous for his surprise $58bn leveraged buyout of Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) in 1999, at the time the world's largest hostile takeover. Many investors applauded him for masterminding the deal, but allies grew disenchanted over his plans to cut the debt mountain he had created and forced him to sell control of the group to tyre-maker Pirelli (PIRC.MI) just two years later.

"While Telecom Italia struggled to recover from the debt burden that drained its finances for years, Colaninno emerged from the deal with a fortune of his own, enabling him to buy IMMSI (IMSI.MI), a Telecom real estate business that he turned into an investment company.

"In 2008, Colaninno looked to revive another struggling Italian icon, national carrier Alitalia, investing heavily in the airline in 2008 and becoming chairman in the process.

"However, like many before him, he failed to turn the company around, and it was eventually shuttered. He was sent to trial last year along with 13 other defendants accused of fraudulent bankruptcy at the airline. He denied wrongdoing. The case has yet to come to court.

"Colaninno started his career at auto parts maker Fiamm, then hooked up with one of the giants of Italian business, Carlo De Benedetti. They founded a finance company, Sogefi, that bought Fiamm from its British owner and transformed it into one of the most successful car parts suppliers in Europe.

"De Benedetti subsequently asked Colaninno to take charge of his floundering Olivetti company. Colaninno ditched the firm's loss-making computer unit and focused on the telephone business - which he subsequently used as a vehicle to launch the Telecom Italia bid."