Agnellis’ Global Push Risks Perils of Rootlessness

John Elkann told reporters at this weekend’s meeting of Exor shareholders that the majority vote to move the Agnelli family holding company’s headquarters from Italy to the Netherlands, was not a symbolic choice, but a natural one. But the chairman of Exor, which controls the carmaker Fiat Chrysler, was making a false distinction. The decision is both natural and symbolic. Natural, because, since Fiat’s merger with Chrysler, the Agnelli family has controlled, through Exor, a genuinely global group. Core elements of the group have already moved to different locations, for different reasons: Fiat Chrysler itself is legally incorporated in the Netherlands and has fiscal residence in the UK, for instance. Mr Elkann — grandson of Gianni Agnelli, a global industrialist who nevertheless kept Fiat firmly in Italy — was right in saying that Exor is a “container” that is merely following its contents. Yet it is disingenuous of him to imply that Exor’s departure is not also a symbol. The T in Fiat stands for “Torino”, after all, and Turin once was home to 100,000 Fiat workers, against the 5,000 currently employed there.

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