16 December 2021

16 December

Giovanni Agnelli – entrepreneur

Founder of Fiat had keen eye for a good investment

Giovanni Agnelli, the businessman who founded the Fiat car manufacturing company, died on this day in 1945 in Turin.  As soon as Agnelli heard about the idea of a ‘horseless carriage’, he recognised it as a business opportunity and in 1898 met up with an inventor looking for investors for his project.  In 1899 he became part of a group who founded the Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino. Within a year he had become managing director of the company and by 1903 the business was making a small profit.  Giovanni had been born in Villar Perosa, a small town near Pinerolo in Piemonte, in 1866.  He embarked on a military career after finishing his studies but returned to his home town to follow in his father’s footsteps and become Mayor.  Fiat continued to grow and went public before the start of the First World War. After the war the first Fiat car dealership was established in the United States and the company continued to expand internationally.  Although Giovanni Agnelli had many other business interests he remained actively involved with Fiat until his death on 16 December 1945 at the age of 79.  Read more…


The founding of AC Milan

English roots of one of Italy’s football giants

The football club that would eventually become known as AC Milan was founded on this day in 1899.  Although Juventus have won twice as many domestic Serie A titles - 36 to their 18 - AC Milan have been Italy’s most successful club in international club football, winning 18 trophies, including the European Cup/Champions League on seven occasions.  Yet the club owes its existence largely to five expatriate Englishmen, who conceived the idea of forming a football club - a cricket and football club, to be more accurate - during an evening at the Fiaschetteria Toscana bar, a few steps from the Duomo in the centre of Milan, where they would meet frequently to socialise.  The group comprised Alfred Edwards, a businessman from Shropshire, players Samuel Davies, from Manchester, David Allison and Edward Nathan Berra, both English but born in France, and Herbert Kilpin, who is remembered as the club’s driving force.  Kilpin, a butcher’s son from Nottingham, was both a footballer and a businessman. He had been a founder-member of the Garibaldi Reds, the amateur team in which Nottingham Forest has its roots.  Read more…


Santo Versace - businessman and politician

Entrepreneurial brain behind Versace fashion empire

Santo Versace, sometime politician and the business brain behind Italy's world famous luxury fashion label, was born on this day in 1944 in Reggio Calabria.  Along with his brother and sister, Gianni and Donatella, Santo grew up in Italy's southernmost major city, which is situated right on the "toe" of the Italian peninsula and separated from the island of Sicily by barely 10km of the Strait of Messina.  Unlike his younger siblings, who were inspired by their mother, Francesca, a dressmaker who owned a small clothes shop, to become designers, Santo took after their father, Antonio, a coal merchant who in time became an interior decorator, in wishing to become a business entrepreneur.  He helped his father hump sacks of coal while still a child and learned the basics of running a business as a teenager before attending the University of Messina, from which he graduated in 1968 with a degree in economics.  At first, Santo worked in banking for Credito Italiano in Reggio Calabria before switching to teaching economics and geography to high school students. In 1972, after completing his military service, he set up as an accountant and management consultant in Reggio Calabria.  Read more…


Francesco Graziani - World Cup winner

Forward injured seven minutes into 1982 final

The footballer Francesco Graziani, who played in all of Italy’s matches in the 1982 World Cup in Spain but had the misfortune to be reduced to the status of a spectator when injury struck just seven minutes into the final, was born on this day in 1952 in Subiaco, in Lazio.  Graziani, a striker with Fiorentina who had made his name with Torino, scored a vital goal in Italy’s final match of the opening group phase against Cameroon, securing the draw that was enough to take the azzurri through to the second stage of the competition.  He played in Italy’s epic victories over Argentina and Brazil in the second group phase and in the thumping semi-final win over Poland but was replaced by Alessandro Altobelli after damaging a shoulder in the opening moments of the final against West Germany.  Altobelli went on to score Italy’s third goal as they overcame the Germans 3-1 to lift the trophy for a third time.  With 23 goals in 64 appearances for the national team, Graziani - nicknamed ‘Ciccio’ - achieved a strike rate in international football similar to his goals-per-game ratio in his career at domestic level, which brought him 142 goals in 413 league appearances.  Read more…


Ivana Spagna – singer-songwriter

Dance track made 30 years ago still holds record

The singer and songwriter Ivana Spagna, whose single Call Me achieved the highest placing by an Italian artist in UK chart history when it reached number two in 1987, was born on this day in 1954 in the town of Valeggio sul Mincio, in the Veneto.  Often performing as simply Spagna, she has sold more than 10 million copies of her singles and albums in a career spanning 46 years, having released her first single in 1971 at the age of 16.  She began to sing professionally in the early 1980s, when she provided the vocals for a number of disco tracks lip-synched by other artists, and when she relaunched her recording career in her own right she met with immediate success.  The single Easy Lady, recorded in 1986 and which she tends to regard as her debut single as a professional artist, sold more than two million copies, as did Call Me, which was released the following year.  Spagna defied the expectations of her record company, who had misgivings about promoting an Italian singing in English under the stage name “Spain” but were pleasantly surprised by her popularity.  Call Me topped the European singles chart and reached No 13 in the Billboard dance chart in the United States.  Read more…


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