Our origins can be traced back to the end of the 19th century, when Giovanni Agnelli founded Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, or FIAT. He grew Fiat over the following decades by innovating, expanding internationally and investing in new industries and, in 1923, he acquired Juventus. The acquisition of this football club, founded a few years earlier in Turin, marked the beginning of the longest uninterrupted ownership of a sports franchise in the world. In recognition of his achievements, Giovanni Agnelli was awarded the highest honour the Italian parliament could grant, becoming Il Senatore.
In 1927, Il Senatore established Istituto Finanziario Industriale, or IFI, a holding company that brought together his shareholdings in Fiat and in many other sectors including food (Cinzano), consumer goods (Società Anonima Manifattura Pellami e Calzature), financial services (Sava), airlines (Società Aviolinee Italiane), industrials (RIV, Vetrocoke, Società Idroelettrica Piemontese-SIP) and real estate (Sestriere). At around this time, he also acquired La Stampa, one of the most prestigious Italian daily newspapers.
Industrial development and new acquisitions went hand in hand during the following years. FIAT was not only launching successful cars, including the famous Topolino, it also made heavy engines for the navy and built a variety of planes, trains, tractors and lorries (“Earth, Sea and Sky”). IFI, meanwhile, acquired new companies in the food and cement sectors.
This cycle of rapid expansion was interrupted by the war, but post war reconstruction triggered a new cycle of investments and development. Istituto Commerciale Laniero Italiano (later renamed IFIL) was acquired and IFINT (IFI International) was established in 1964 to bring together the group’s international investments. In 1969, an agreement with Enzo Ferrari heralded the beginning of a partnership between two entrepreneurial families that saw the Prancing Horse grow to become the most admired and famous brand in the world.
The companies continued to grow, and new acquisitions were made, throughout the rest of the 20th century. In the 1990s, a number of world-famous names were added to the portfolio including Chateaux Margaux, Club Méditerranée, and the iconic Rockefeller Center in New York City. Towards the end of the decade, IFINT acquired Exor Group and extended its reach globally with investments in Asia.
The turn of the new century, however, was marked by a crisis in FIAT. The Agnelli family responded to this by making changes in top leadership and injecting new capital, which enabled both the company’s turnaround and its later merger with Chrysler to create FCA.
Alongside these changes, work began to simplify the group’s structure and shape our current profile: Exor became the sole holding company for all the group’s companies, completed the acquisition of PartnerRe, one of the world’s leading reinsurance companies, and acquired a substantial shareholding in The Economist newspaper.
A century on from Il Senatore’s founding of Fiat, the entrepreneurial spirit and financial discipline that enabled us to build great companies are as alive and as strong as ever and continue to guide us in everything we do.