Octogenarians are shaking up Italian business 14 November 2019
CARLO DE BENEDETTI is fond of high drama. When he resigned after only three months as chief executive of Fiat in 1976, rumours swirled that he was cobbling together a bid for the then-ailing carmaker with the help of Swiss financiers. Mr De Benedetti denied ever having such designs. But he seemed to relish all the attention.
Mr De Benedetti, who turned 85 on November 14th, is back centre-stage of Italian business with another unorthodox bid. Last month he offered €38m ($42m) to buy a 29.9% stake of GEDI Gruppo Editoriale, publisher of newspapers including La Stampa and La Repubblica, as part of a plan to relaunch the business, which is currently run by his sons, Marco and Rodolfo. His offspring have “neither the skills nor the passion required to be publishers”, he lamented in an interview with Corriere della Sera, a rival daily. GEDI was a ship without a captain, at the mercy of high waves, according to the patriarch. On October 28th he resigned as honorary chairman of GEDI. (Exor, a holding company whose chairman sits on the board of The Economist’s parent company, has a 6% stake in GEDI.)
Mr De Benedetti’s return may be particularly operatic, but other Italian Methuselahs are also in the spotlight. Stefano Pessina, the 78-…