FAMOUS PHRASES OF GIANNI AGNELLI
Apart from his style, Gianni Agnelli is remembered for his unmatched sense of humour.
His statements and comments were often unexpected and to the point and they impressed his interlocutor with their irony and depth of judgment.
Many of his remarks have made history. Many of his public speeches are still current today.
Here are some of his more famous phrases:
- “I like the wind because you can’t buy it” (Il signor Fiat, Rizzoli, 1976).
- “A thing done well can be done better”.
- “I’ve known faithful husbands who were really bad husbands and I’ve known unfaithful husbands who were very goodhusbands. I don’t think the two things go necessarily together” (to Judd Rose of ABC, September 1991).
- ” I’m fond of ecologists. But they have expensive plans. You can’t be greener than your own pockets”.
- “The chauffeur never drives. I always drive, it’s a habit of mine. Once, when people travelled by horse-drawn vehicles, theysaid ‘there are those who prefer to sit on the box and those who prefer to sit inside the carriage’. I prefer sitting on the box”.
- “I’ve always been happy to drive, and fast. There’s one particular time, between four and six o’clock in the morning, when the car headlights are still switched on, while those who’ve just woken up don’t put on their lights. Butchers, for example, in their vans going to the market. And I managed to end up driving into one of those”.
- “Oh, I’ve certainly never been short of pleasure. Do you know what real pleasure is? A creative act. A pleasure without creativity is dead boring.”
- “I don’t much like taking stock, and especially I don’t like the past except inasmuch as it fixes our identity. I love the future and I’m fond of young people. My whole life has consisted of betting on the future”.
- “You fall in love at the age of twenty; after that, only waitresses fall in love” (Corriere della Sera archive).
- “Everybody’s a playboy. Everybody tries to be one, some manage it, others don’t”.
- “There are three phases in building up a group like ours: the time of strength, the time of privilege and the time of vanity. In my opinion, only the first one counts. I don’t want the others to exist.”
- “Three-quarters of my life coincides with that of Fiat. And my relationship with Fiat is half memory and half experience”.
- “I act through professional experts, but they don’t take decisions without consulting me” (to the Economist of 30th August 1985)
- “A boss who doesn’t expect a company to make profits is a very bad boss” (to Arrigo Levi, in Interview on modern capitalism, Laterza 1983).
- “What is good for Fiat, is good for Italy” (attributed to Gianni Agnelli, this was partially denied by him during an interview given to Gianni Minoli in Mixer, where he stated: “What is bad for Turin is always bad for Italy”).
- “With zero profits, the crisis won’t be resolved but will get worse and may produce very bad consequences. We’ve only got two prospects: either a head-on collision to lower salaries or a set of brave initiatives to break with the past and eliminate the more intolerable phenomena of waste and inefficiency. It goes without saying we have to choose between these.”
- “If they’d told me when I was a boy that I’d be a shareholder of General Motors, I’d never have believed them”.
- “My grandfather had 70 per cent of the Fiat shares in his portfolio and managed them by giving low dividends. Also because he would have distributed them mainly to himself. He preferred to set aside to a reserve and with the reserves he built the great Mirafiori factory. But nobody knew why he didn’t talk much. He wasn’t like me, in fact, who talk about everything at the general meeting”.
- “When Vittorio Valletta passed on what he called the highest responsibility to me in 1966, I remember he told me very sincerely: ‘Today Fiat is strong, it’s financially viable, we cover over two-thirds of the Italian market, there’s serenity and social contentment. I’m really happy to give this Fiat over to you, in these conditions, after working closely for so long with your grandfather’”.
- “My private life doesn’t count at all. What counts is being of service to Fiat at the right time, like now”.
- “A passion for art grows with maturity. When I was a child, my father took me to visit museum because he felt that beautiful things could educate, and that taste became refined from childhood onwards, and he was right”.
- “There is an aesthetic taste. The mere pleasure of seeing a work of art. It’s not seeking to possess it, but the desire to admire a work of creation. In my life I’ve had a lot of joy from observing and studying these works. I now hope that many other people will want to share with me this feeling and this desire. Aside from the words of critics and scholars, I would like those who see the works I have donated to the new gallery in the Lingotto in my city, Turin, to remember that keyword: the joy of admiring art”. (to Gianni Riotta, Fondazione Gianni e Marella Agnelli Catalogue, Turin 2002).
- ” I like beautiful things that are well made. I even believe aesthetics are equivalent to ethics. Something that is beautiful is ethical, and unethical things aren’t beautiful—from tax dodging to doing things in an underhand way.” (to Sally Bedell Smith, in Vanity Fair, July 1991).
- “Italy swallows everything, its strength lies in the spinelessness of the authorities, in the pliability of politicians, in the capacity of the Italians to adapt. It’s a mattress, the Italian system. Pasolini would have said it’s a “ricotta”. Or, if you prefer, flectar non frangar. And we, natives of Turin, have always felt rather like foreigners in our homeland, for the very reason that we are a mountain people. Turin reminds one of the old garrison towns – duties before rights, Catholicism still has Jansenist undertones, the air is cold and the people get up early and go to bed early, Antifascism is a serious matter, and so is work, and profits, too” (to Eugenio Scalfari, “The Agnelli cure for Italy”, in La Repubblica, 25th November 1982).
- “To be Italians in the world we have to be Europeans in Italy” (La Stampa, 2004).
- “There’s a contribution I make indirectly and for which I cannot take any credit: when people – foreigners – see Italy, they see that I’m here on the Italian scene, that I live here and that I believe in it; this fact is interpreted as a sign that you can have confidence in this country, that Italian society is a society you can give credit to, if Agnelli and Fiat and what they represent have a secure position here.” (to Arrigo Levi, Interview on modern capitalism, Laterza 1983).
- “To me, Juventus means a lot sentimentally. In the 1950s and ‘60s when there were substantial flows of migrants to Northern Italy, a lot of southerners chose Turin precisely in order to see the Juventus team in action. For many people, seeing them play live has always been a dream” (in L’Espresso, February 1997)
- [On Michel Platini] “We bought him for a piece of bread and he’s put foie gras on top of it”.
- “Juventus has a habit of saying and believing that when things are going well, it’s due to the players, but when they aren’t going so well, it’s the company’s fault”.
- [On Marcello Lippi] “The best product of Viareggio, after Stefania Sandrelli”.
- “[…] Because Juventus, after a century of history already, has become a legend. A legend that started off in a high school in Turin and finished up by gaining nine or ten million fans in Italy and, of course, the same number abroad with a jersey and colours that are known throughout the world“.
- “If Baggio is Raphael, Del Piero is Pinturicchio” (statement to newspapers, August 1995).
- [Responding to somebody who asked him: “May Juve win or may the best team win?”] “I’m lucky, the two things often coincide”.
- “Buscetta said he was an obsessive Juventus fan? If you meet him, tell him that’s the only thing he won’t be sorry for”.
- [On Franco Zeffirelli] “He’s a great director. But when he talks about football I’m not even listening to him”.
- “We’ve always had Juventus. This isn’t a business; it’s a passion, a subjective passion but one that’s shared by a lot of people”.
- “Other people talk about Juventus-style; we don’t”.
- “You can do anything, but you can’t leave the family” (Dinastie, Enzo Biagi, 1998)
- “Everything I’ve got, I’ve inherited. My grandfather did it all. I owe everything to the right of ownership and the right of inheritance; I’ve added the duty of responsibility to that”.
- “My grandfather certainly said that you have to get everything out of your head before starting work seriously. He called me back to Fiat to be beside him as vice-chairman. I was 23-and-a-half years old. Then I went away again, to be a soldier again for a certain time, then I came back”.
- “My grandfather, the senator, had given me the go-ahead, telling me that I could enjoy myself for a few years – drop out – before becoming a serious person. So I rejoined my friends on the international scene, in Saint Moritz, New York, Paris and on the Côte d’Azur. We used to have great times at all-night parties, on my yacht and in our villa at Beaulieu. Of course, there were beautiful girls there. But at that time there were two categories of men around: those who talked about women and those who women talked to, very intimately. There were actresses, real ladies and others who were only half-way ladies” (to Peter Dragadze in Un jour avec Agnelli, 1976).
- “Don’t call me senator. Each time I hear that word I think of my grandfather, who is everything to me and my family. He’s the senator. I’m known as Avvocato Agnelli, and that’s how it should be”.
- “My father had some great qualities, he was quite a gentle person. But I consider myself as my grandfather’s grandson; I was at his side from the age of fourteen to twenty, during my formative years. The responsibilities passed directly from him to me…” (to Enzo Biagi in Il signor Fiat, Rizzoli 1976).
- “My sister Suni was my real friend, perhaps because she’s the closest to me in age. And my sister Clara, too. The others were younger, but then I became great friends with Umberto as well. We understand each other immediately, even before we speak. That’s rare, you know, between brothers”.
- “I’ve always been a devoted husband, but if I were to claim that I’ve always been a faithful husband, I would be telling a lie” (Vanity Fair, July 1991).
- “Marella? We’ve been together for a lifetime. At that point, the other person becomes a part of you; how can you say you’re friends? It’s more, much more, it’s a piece of yourself.” (to Eugenio Scalfari in La Repubblica, 2nd March 1996).
- “I’m not a great teacher. I’m more inclined to let people do what they want. I take my grandchildren, I talk to them, I laugh with them and we go to museums and to the cinema together. I know how to do it. But I’m not a good teacher”.
- “I have no enthusiasm for politics and politicians. I recognize that it’s a necessary activity and that, at least in theory, it’s the most noble of all, to manage the interests of the population, of the community. But I don’t like the inevitable partiality of political parties and the equally inevitable egoism of those who lead them. Finally: Fiat has a certain importance to the economy and to Italian society that cannot be combined with a political affiliation” (to Eugenio Scalfari in La Repubblica, 2nd March 1996).
- “Politics doesn’t tempt me, it’s too late, but I’ve taken part in all the elections for President because it’s important to take Parliament seriously”.
- “Up to now the Communist Party has been viewed from two perspectives: that of hope and that of fear. After today’s episode I think the hope perspective has been wiped out”. [after the picketing of Mirafiori: dig at Enrico Berlinguer]
–“Like all politicians, Montezemolo, too, is very sensitive to what the newspapers write. Or rather, he’s more sensitive to the newspapers than to the facts. He’s wrong”.
- “In my life I’ve had two public elective offices, that of Chairman of Confindustria in an emergency situation and that of mayor of Villar Perosa, for 35 years: it’s a very useful experience for understanding people’s problems – the cost of lighting in the town, village life, the priest’s weight, the work of the schoolmistress“.
- [On Fascism] “A natural thing, as it was for all those of my generation. I didn’t like the leaders because they represented the power, and because of the stupidity of their proclamations and the madness of a foreign policy conducted with arrogance that was not backed up by force” (to Enzo Biagi in Il signor Fiat, Rizzoli 1976).
- “After the war in Japan General MacArthur destroyed the Japanese public industry. In Italy, unfortunately, this did not happen. Maybe because for us the war finished with a semi-defeat. Italy is the country where public backing counts most, where political patronage has more weight than the government. As long as the political power continues to appoint managers we cannot talk about privatizations” (to Ferruccio De Bortoli in Corriere della Sera, 20th February 1996).
- “I’ve known De Mita for longer than Craxi. He’s a typical southern intellectual, one of those who seem to have been trained in Magna Graecia” (to Giovanni Minoli during the TV programme Mixer, 1st March 1984).
- “For the Monarchy. I was a soldier who had sworn loyalty. […] In my view the history of the Savoy dynasty is a story that finished with the referendum. But I also know that from a national point of view it had a great value, for Piedmont and for Italy” (to Miriam Mafai, in La Repubblica, 31st May 1996).
- “I didn’t know Roosevelt. I knew his widow, a strong woman, and his son, who represented Fiat in America. I’ve known all the other presidents, in particular Kennedy… a time of great hopes first of all, and deep regret later… Reagan was a great president, but more a leader than a statesman. He was a really nice man, he told funny jokes” (to Ennio Caretto, in Corriere della Sera, 5th November 1996).