Famed Italian Dealmaker and Piaggio CEO Colaninno Passes Away

Renowned industrialist and mastermind behind Telecom Italia takeover, Roberto Colaninno, dies at 80.

Renowned Italian entrepreneur Roberto Colaninno, celebrated for his role as the chairman and CEO of Piaggio, a prominent scooter manufacturer, has passed away, as confirmed by his investment company IMMSI on Saturday. Colaninno, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, was a pivotal figure in Italy’s business landscape, known for his turnaround of struggling enterprises.

Legacy of Transformation and Challenges:
Colaninno’s career was marked by significant accomplishments as well as challenges. He gained prominence for orchestrating the astonishing $58 billion leveraged buyout of Telecom Italia in 1999, which stood as the world’s largest hostile takeover at that time. Investors initially lauded his skillful execution of the deal, but his subsequent attempts to alleviate the substantial debt burden he had incurred faced criticism. This eventually led to the relinquishment of control to Pirelli, the tire manufacturer, within two years of the acquisition.

Diversification and Success with Piaggio:
Colaninno’s expertise extended beyond telecom, as demonstrated by his turnaround of Piaggio. The maker of the iconic Vespa scooter was grappling with challenges when Colaninno took charge in 2003. His efforts propelled the company back from the brink, and he rapidly expanded its reach across Asia, particularly in India, China, and Vietnam. Under his leadership, the group achieved record-breaking first-half results in July.

Ventures into Air Travel and the Alitalia Challenge:
In 2008, Colaninno embarked on a new endeavor by investing heavily in struggling national carrier Alitalia and subsequently assuming the role of chairman. Despite his concerted efforts, he, like his predecessors, faced insurmountable challenges in reviving the airline. Ultimately, Alitalia was forced to cease operations. Colaninno was subjected to legal proceedings last year, along with other defendants, over allegations of fraudulent bankruptcy at the airline—a case yet to reach the court.

Path to Success:
Colaninno’s journey to prominence commenced at Fiamm, an auto parts manufacturer, where he began his career. His partnership with Italian business magnate Carlo De Benedetti led to the creation of Sogefi, a finance company that acquired Fiamm and transformed it into a thriving car parts supplier in Europe. Colaninno’s strategic acumen shone when he steered Olivetti, a struggling company under De Benedetti, towards success by shedding its unprofitable computer unit and focusing on the telecommunications sector. This laid the foundation for his audacious bid for Telecom Italia.

Legacy and Survivors:
Roberto Colaninno leaves behind a legacy of ambitious deals and significant corporate transformations. He is survived by his wife Oretta and their two sons, Matteo and Michele.

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