Showing posts with label Enrico Mattei. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Enrico Mattei. Show all posts

10 February 2018

ENI – oil and gas multinational

Italian energy company 65 years old today

The ENI logo, with its strange six-legged dog
The ENI logo, with its strange
six-legged dog
The Rome-based multinational oil and gas company ENI, one of the world’s largest industrial concerns, was founded on this day in 1953.

The company, which operates in 79 countries, is currently valued at $52.2 billion (€47.6 billion) and employs almost 34,000 people.  It is the 11th largest oil company in the world.

Its operations include exploration for and production of oil and natural gas, the processing, transportation and refining of crude oil, the transportation of natural gas, the storage and distribution of petroleum products and the production of base chemicals and plastics.

A wholly state-owned company until 1995, ENI is still to a large extent in the control of the Italian government, which owns just over 30 per cent of the company as a golden share, which includes preferential voting rights, almost four per cent through the state treasury, and a further 26 per cent through the Italian investment bank, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

ENI came into being as Italy was rebuilding after the Second World War, which had left its economy in ruins. Enrico Mattei, an industrialist and a Christian Democrat deputy, was assigned the task of winding down the existing state-owned oil company Agip (Azienda Generale Italiana Petrolio), an entity that had come into being under the Fascist regime and was seen as unsustainable.

Enrico Mattei, ENI's founder, was a Christian Democrat deputy
Enrico Mattei, ENI's founder, was a
Christian Democrat deputy
Instead of closing Agip, however, Mattei rebuilt and expanded it, setting up a new company, Ente Nationale Idrocarburi – the National Hydrocarbons Authority – which would control the petrochemical industry throughout Italy.

The famous ENI logo – a six-legged imaginary dog – came into being at an early stage, the six legs symbolising the four wheels of a car and the two legs of the driver.

Mattei’s tactics were controversial.  Attempting to break the dominance of the world oil market by the so-called “Seven Sisters” – the seven mainly American companies that controlled 85 per cent of the global market from the mid-40s onwards, he made independent deals with Algeria, Egypt and Iran and, at the height of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union that greatly enhanced ENI’s value.

When Mattei was killed in a plane crash in 1962, there was strong evidence that the private jet in which he and the Time-Life journalist William McHale were travelling from Catania in Sicily to Milan had been sabotaged and conspiracy theories about the involvement of Italian and American secret service agents acting in the interests of the “Seven Sisters” rumbled on for years. After several enquiries, a court ruled in 1995 that Mattei’s cause of death was homicide, although the perpetrators have never been identified.

Even after Mattei’s death, however, ENI’s ties with the Middle East and Algeria were further strengthened, especially after the crisis of 1973, when the OPEC countries imposed an embargo on US and Netherlands companies in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.

Emma Marcegaglia, ENI's
current president
The ENI enterprises included an oil pipeline between Algeria and Sicily, via Tunisia, and, more recently, a joint initiative with Russia to import gas supplies into Europe.

Within Italy, ENI sells petrol and diesel under the ENI and Agip brands, and has seven power plants run using natural gas, at Brindisi in Apulia, Ferrara and Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna, Livorno in Tuscany and Bolgiano, Mantua and Ferrera Erbognone in Lombardy.

These supply power to 7.45 million residential customers in Italy and 2.09 million in other parts of Europe.

The ENI group includes companies in the construction, engineering and drilling businesses, with much energy devoted to finding new reserves off oil and gas, particularly off the coast of Africa and in the southern Mediterranean.

The company is chaired by the 52-year-old businesswoman Emma Marcegaglia, who was appointed president by Italian premier Matteo Renzi. The CEO is Claudio Descalzi, who first worked for ENI in 1981.

The Duomo at Brindisi, rebuilt after 1743 earthquake
The Duomo at Brindisi, rebuilt after 1743 earthquake
Travel tip:

The port of Brindisi, where the power plant is part of substantial ENI involvement in the area’s industry, sits on a large natural harbour overseen by the red-stone Aragonese Castle known as Forte a Mare that stands on a small island at the entrance, and by the Castello Grande or Castello Federiciano, which was once a residence of King Victor Emmanuel III.  Within the medieval centre of the city, which boasts a reconstructed Romanesque Duomo – the 11th or 12th century original was destroyed in an earthquake in 1743, two ancient Roman columns, which has been adopted as symbols of the city, are said to mark the beginning of the Appian Way, which linked Brindisi with Rome.

ENI's headquarters in the EUR district of Rome
ENI's headquarters in the EUR district of Rome
Travel tip:

ENI’s headquarters in Rome, the Palazzo ENI or Palazzo di vetro (The Glass Palace) is situated in the area known as Parco Centrale del Lago, a large green space in the middle of the EUR district, the modern city within a city built for the Universal Exposition that was scheduled to be held in Rome in 1942 but never took place. The Palazzo looks out over the Lago dell’EUR – the EUR lake – a short distance from the Palazzo dello Sport, the circular arena built by Marcello Piacentini and Pier Luigi Nervi for the 1960 Olympics.   Designed by the architects Marco Bacigalupo and Ugo Ratti, assisted by engineers Leo Finzi and Edoardo Nova, it is 85.5m high and has 22 floors. When it was inaugurated, it was the tallest building in the capital, after the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano, but has since been eclipsed by nearby Torre Europarco (120m) and the Eurosky Tower (155m).

(Picture credits: Brindisi duomo by LPLT; ENI building by Blackcat)


27 October 2017

Enrico Mattei – industrialist and entrepreneur

Death in plane crash remains an unsolved mystery

Enrico Mattei rose to political prominence in the years after the Second World War
Enrico Mattei rose to political prominence in the years
after the Second World War
Enrico Mattei, one of the most important figures in Italy’s post-War economic rebirth, was killed on this day in 1962 in a plane crash near the village of Bascapè in Lombardy.

Accompanied by a Time-Life journalist, William McHale, Mattei was returning to Milan from Catania in Sicily in a French-built four-seater Morane-Saulnier jet being flown by Irnerio Bertuzzi, a respected pilot who had flown many daring missions during the Second World War.

They were on their descent towards Milan Linate when the crash happened, less than 17km (10.5 miles) from the airport.

Mattei, a politically powerful industrialist, best known for turning round Italy’s seemingly unviable oil industry, was not short of enemies and after his death there was considerable speculation that it did not happen by accident.

A government-led investigation, overseen by the then Italian Defence Minister Giulio Andreotti, concluded that a storm was to blame for the crash, even though the pilot was highly experienced and very unlikely to have allowed bad weather to bring him down.

Questions about the initial inquiry’s findings led to a second inquiry was opened in 1966 but shelved without reaching a conclusion.

Mattei established ENI as Italy's state oil company in the early 1950s
Mattei established ENI as Italy's state oil
company in the early 1950s
In the fevered atmosphere that prevailed in Italy at the time, however, with much social unrest and the Italian Communist Party threatening the grip of the Christian Democrats, the conspiracy theories never went away.

Indeed, there were good grounds to imagine that dark forces might have been involved, given the controversial way in which Mattei had gone about reviving Italy’s ailing oil industry.

Born at Acqualagna in Marche in 1906, Mattei had experience in the tanning and chemical industries in the late 1920s and early 1930s and joined the Fascist Party in 1931, although he was never active politically and was persuaded by the disastrous course of the Second World War to join anti-Fascist groups during the 1940s.

After Mussolini was ousted in 1943, Mattei supplied weapons to the Italian resistance and aligned himself with the newly-formed Christian Democrats, participating in the Northern Italian military command of the National Liberation Committee.

He went on to become a powerful figure within the Christian Democrats, for whom he sat in the Chamber of Deputies between 1948 and 1953.

But it was the decision of the National Liberation Committee, in the immediate aftermath of war, to put him in charge of the Fascist-instigated state-owned oil company, Agip (Azienda Generale Italiana Petrolio), that defined his life.

A Morane-Saulnier MS 760 similar to the one in which Mattei was travelling when he was killed
A Morane-Saulnier MS 760 similar to the one in which
Mattei was travelling when he was killed
Mattei’s brief was to close Agip, which was seen as unsustainable.  Instead, Mattei rebuilt it, exploiting newly-discovered oil and methane sources in the Po Valley, which he used to supply the postwar industrial growth in northern Italy with vital energy supplies.

He ploughed profits back into more exploration and ultimately persuaded the government, despite opposition from within his own party, to set up a new company, called Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI) with control over the petrochemical industry throughout Italy.

It was as president of ENI that Mattei began to acquire enemies. Keen to develop international operations once it became clear Italy could not be self-sufficient in oil, he persuaded parliament to support a massive expansion of the company, often – it became clear later – using company money to pay sweeteners.

However, in the international field he was up against the might of the cartel he dubbed the Seven Sisters – the seven major companies, mainly American, that controlled 85 per cent of the world’s petroleum reserves and kept prices at a high level.

Mattei's desk is preserved at a small museum dedicated to his memory in his home town of Acqualanga
Mattei's desk is preserved at a small museum dedicated
to his memory in his home town of Acqualanga
Determined to get a better deal for Italy, Mattei began to make arrangements of his own that bypassed the cartel, with the poorer Middle East and north African countries and, most controversially, with Russia. 

This engendered opposition from the United States, who saw the deals he struck with Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran as severely detrimental to their own interests, and from NATO, who feared that a major trade link between Italy and Russia would only aid the march of communism in Italy, which they were committed to preventing.

Mattei upset the French, too, by secretly funding the independence movement in French colonial Algeria, again to facilitate preferential oil agreements.

Thus the finger of suspicion soon began to point at America and France, in the shape of the CIA, the French secret services and the French far-right paramilitary group, the OAS.

In 1974 there was another inquiry, prompted by the disappearance in Sicily of a journalist, Mauro de Mauro, who was looking into Mattei’s business dealings for a film about him being planned by the director, Francesco Rosi, and the claim by a former agent of the French intelligence agency SDECE, that Mattei had been eliminated by them.

Again, no conclusion was reached but in 1995 a further inquiry was launched, which took into account a claim by the Mafia pentito (supergrass) Tommaso Buscetta that Sicilian Cosa Nostra members had killed Mattei at the request of the American Mafia, but was largely concerned with some wreckage from the plane that had found its way to the officer of the public prosecutor in Pavia, under whose jurisdiction that crash scene fell.

Fragments saved at the scene by an Italian secret service agent had been handed to Mattei’s nephew, Angelo, who in turn gave them to the prosecutor.  This prompted an exhumation of the bodies of Mattei and Bertuzzi, the pilot, and a new post mortem that identified clear indications that an explosion had taken place on the plane while it was still in the air, almost certainly caused by a bomb triggered when the landing gear was activated.

On the basis of this evidence, a judge quashed Andreotti’s original pronouncement that the deaths were caused accidentally and reclassified them as homicide, although the identity of the perpetrators remains an unsolved mystery.

The beautiful Gola di Furlo
The beautiful Gola di Furlo
Travel tip:

The town of Acqualagna, which is situated about 40km (25 miles) inland of Pesaro to the southwest, is in the valley of the Candigliano river close to where it is joined by the Burano, just upstream from the beautiful Gola di Furlo – the Furlo pass – a gorge formed between two mountain peaks by the force of the Candigliano, along which was built the Roman road Via Flaminia, part of which passes through a tunnel built into the rock by the Romans at the narrowest part of the gorge.  The house in which Mattei was born contains a small museum dedicated to his memory, which can be viewed by appointment.

Milan's Linate airport as it appeared when commercial operations began in 1930s
Milan's Linate airport as it appeared when commercial
operations began in 1930s
Travel tip:

Linate airport, situated less than 10km (6 miles) from Piazza del Duomo, is Milan’s city airport, although it nowadays handles considerably fewer passengers than Malpensa, which is almost 50km (30 miles) out of town, just a few kilometres from Lake Maggiore. Linate began commercial operations in the 1930s when it was built to replace Taliedo airport, just to the south of the city, which had been one of the world’s first aerodromes but was too small for significant commercial traffic.

23 April 2017

Stefano Bontade - Mafia supremo

Well-connected Cosa Nostra boss had links to ex-premier Andreotti

Stefano Bontade, head of  major crime family in Palermo
Stefano Bontade, head of  major
crime family in Palermo
Stefano Bontade, one of the most powerful and well connected figures in the Sicilian Mafia in the 1960s and 1970s, was born on this day in 1939 in Palermo, where he was murdered exactly 42 years later in a birthday execution that sparked a two-year war between the island’s rival clans.

Known as Il Falco – the Falcon – he was said to have close links with a number of important politicians on Sicily and with the former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti.

He was strongly suspected of being a key figure in the 1962 murder of Enrico Mattei, the president of Italy’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate ENI, and in the bogus kidnapping of Michele Sindona, the disgraced banker who used the Vatican Bank to launder the proceeds of Cosa Nostra heroin trafficking.

Born into a Mafia family, Bontade controlled the Villagrazia area in the south-west of Palermo and became head of the Santa Maria di Gesù crime family at the age of 25 when his father, Francesco Paolo Bontade, a major Cosa Nostra boss known as Don Paolino, stepped down in failing health.

He was banished to the mainland, specifically Qualiano in Campania, following his arrest in 1972 after Pietro Scaglione, the chief prosecutor of Palermo, had been murdered.  A sustained crackdown on Mafia activity following the Ciaculli Massacre of 1963 had achieved significant progress in cutting off the organisation’s income streams but, ironically, the banishment of bosses in Bontade’s generation backfired on the authorities.

Along with others, Bontade made new contacts with Mafiosi on the mainland and their involvement in cigarette smuggling and heroin trafficking enabled them to rebuild their powerbase in Sicily.  Bontade became part of a network involved with the processing and trafficking of heroin from Turkey to the streets of cities in the United States, where it was distributed by the Gambino family.

Gambino family boss Carlo Gambino
Gambino family boss Carlo Gambino
Bontade’s links with Cosa Nostra figures in the US were seemingly behind his alleged organising of the Mattei killing, supposedly requested by a Sicilian-born Mafioso from Philadelphia because Mattei’s policies threatened the profitability of the United States oil industry, in which the American Mafia had vested interests.

Later, the Gambino family enlisted his help in a scheme proposed by Sindona to recover a Cosa Nostra fortune that had been lost when the Franklin National Bank in Long Island, which Sindona controlled and through which much of the laundered heroin proceeds were laundered, collapsed in 1974.

Sindona was in the US awaiting trail on fraud charges connected with the collapse, while being also wanted in Italy in connection with the murder of a police superintendent and a lawyer who were investigating of his failed Banca Privata Italiana.

In what appeared to be a kidnap, he was smuggled out of the US and back to Sicily, where he attempted to blackmail former political allies, including Andreotti, in return for the re-establishment of his banking empire and the recovery of Mafia money.   The plot failed and Sindona was returned to America, where he died in prison, apparently through poisoning, shortly after he was convicted for the murder of the Sicilian lawyer, Giorgio Ambrosoli.

Three times PM Giulio Andreotti
Three times PM Giulio Andreotti
Bontade, a freemason, cultivated a network of connections that included Christian Democrat politicians in Sicily, through whom links could be traced right to the top of Italian politics and to Andreotti, who was prime minister twice in the 1970s and again from 1989-92.

Andreotti is said to have appealed directly to Bontade in a bid to prevent the murder of Christian Democrat politician Piersanti Mattarella, who became a target after promising to smash the Mafia’s public contracts racket on Sicily. According to the evidence of a Mafia pentito, Francesco Marino Mannoia, Bontade threatened Andreotti with wiping out all of his party’s representatives in Sicily unless his demands were met and the Mattarella killing went ahead.

Bontade’s own death in 1981 came after Salvatore Riina, the most powerful figure in the Corleonesi clan from inland Sicily, formed a secret alliance with the Palermo mafioso and Bontade adversary Michele Greco with the aim of seizing control of the heroin trafficking operation.  Riina and Bontade were supposed to be allies as members of the Sicilian Mafia Commission, on which Greco eventually replaced a Bontade ally, Gaetano Badalamenti.

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
Riina and Greco organised the killing of many of Bontade’s friends and associates and tipped off police to arrest others, especially those involved directly with the trafficking network.  Bontade himself was murdered as he drove home from a party to celebrate his 42nd birthday, the execution carried out with a Kalashnikov machine gun by Pino Greco, Michele's nephew and a favoured Riina hitman.

Subsequently, two Bontade allies, Tommaso Buscetta and Salvatore Contorno, became pentiti, and it was largely their evidence that enabled the anti-Mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino to convict 360 Cosa Nostra members in the mid-1980s in the so-called Maxi Trial. Those sent to jail included Greco and Riina, although Riina later exacted revenge by ordering the murders of both Falcone and Borsellino in 1992.

The convent of  San Benedetto il Moro
The convent of  San Benedetto il Moro
Travel tip:

Santa Maria de Gesù, which gave its name to the area of Palermo Bontade controlled at the height of his powers, is actually a village at the foot of Monte Grifone, the 832m (2,730ft) peak that forms part of the Monti di Palermo chain and was once home to a colony of griffon vultures. Panoramic views of the city can be obtained from the Convent of San Benedetto il Moro, the patron saint of Palermo, who died at Santa Maria de Gesù in 1589. In the highest part of town is the tree of San Benedetto, a 500-year-old cypress that according to legend was planted by the saint himself.

The golden mosaics of the Cappella Palatina
The golden mosaics of the Cappella Palatina
Travel tip:

By common consensus, if there is one attraction visitors to Palermo should not miss it is the Cappella Palatina, the extraordinary chapel that occupies the middle level of the three-tiered loggia of the Palazzo dei Normanni in Piazza Indipendenza. Almost every inch of the inside of the chapel is decorated with gold mosaics and inlaid precious stones. The chapel was built by Roger II, the King of Sicily, who hired Byzantine Greek artisans to work on the project in about 1140. The marble floor and walls reflect Islamic influences.

More reading:

How Giulio Andreotti, the great survivor, spent 45 years in government

The anti-Mafia crusade of Giovanni Falcone

A life of corruption and fraud: the failed banker Michele Sindona

Also on this day:

1857: The birth of opera composer Ruggero Leoncavallo

1964: The birth of conductor Gianandrea Noseda