Agnelli

Alan Friedman, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (367p) ISBN 978-0-453-00690-3
As owner of the Fiat industrial complex, Gianni Agnelli heads an empire that amounts to a shadow Italian government, according to the author of this hard-hitting expose. Friedman calls him ``a latter-day despot'' whose family enriched itself by doing business with Mussolini and who now exerts strong influence over Italian industry, finance and the media. Agnelli's pampered childhood and his years as Europe's most flamboyant playboy are described, but the main body of the book covers the period after his ``coronation'' as head of Fiat at the age of 45 and the expansion of his personal and corporate power while crushing almost all opposition. (Carlo De Benedetti, head of the Olivetti empire, is revealed here as one rival Agnelli has been unable to co-opt or intimidate.) The book includes an account of Fiat's sabotage of an almost completed takeover of Alfa Romeo by the Ford Motor Corporation, Agnelli's acquisition of Alfa Romeo and Fiat's sales of ballistic-missile technology to Third World nations despite international agreements prohibiting such sales. Friedman, Milan correspondent of the Financial Times of London, concludes that Agnelli symbolizes ``the amoral language of power.'' His highly readable book conveys the style and substance of one of Europe's most influential men and the feudal network of power he has created. Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
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