Italian Industrial Titan and Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno Passes Away


A Trailblazing Career in Italian Industry

Entrepreneur Roberto Colaninno, renowned as the chairman and CEO of Piaggio, a prominent scooter manufacturer, and a prominent dealmaker in Italy, has passed away at the age of 80, as confirmed by his investment firm IMMSI on Saturday. Colaninno played a pivotal role in Italy’s industrial landscape, orchestrating the turnaround of numerous struggling companies, although his corporate legacy remained a blend of successes and challenges.

Shaping Telecom Italia’s Landmark Deal

Roberto Colaninno achieved worldwide recognition for his unexpected $58 billion leveraged buyout of Telecom Italia in 1999, marking it as one of the largest hostile takeovers globally at the time. This audacious move drew applause from many investors, positioning him as a mastermind of transformative deals. However, internal disillusionment grew due to his approach to reducing the considerable debt load he had incurred. This led to the relinquishing of control to Pirelli, a tire manufacturer, a mere two years later.

Navigating the Corporate Landscape

Colaninno’s journey in the corporate realm showcased resilience and innovation. Following the Telecom Italia episode, he demonstrated his adaptability by resuscitating the renowned Vespa scooter maker, Piaggio, which was grappling with adversity. Under his leadership, the company expanded its footprint across Asia, notably in India, China, and Vietnam. Piaggio experienced a remarkable turnaround, posting record-breaking first-half results in July.

A Vision for Italian Icons

Colaninno’s dedication extended to breathing new life into other Italian icons. He delved into reviving the national carrier, Alitalia, investing substantially in 2008 and eventually assuming the role of chairman. However, despite his efforts, the airline continued to face challenges, eventually leading to its closure. Colaninno’s endeavors in Alitalia even culminated in a legal trial, along with 13 co-defendants, accused of fraudulent bankruptcy related to the airline. Colaninno steadfastly maintained his innocence, awaiting the resolution of the case.

An Impactful Journey Continues

Roberto Colaninno’s impactful career journey began at Fiamm, an auto parts manufacturer, and later intertwined with Carlo De Benedetti, a prominent figure in Italian business. Together, they founded Sogefi, a finance company that transformed Fiamm into a successful car parts supplier. Colaninno’s strategic acumen led him to oversee Olivetti, where he steered the company towards telecommunications, setting the stage for the transformative Telecom Italia bid. His legacy endures through his wife Oretta and two sons, Matteo and Michele.


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