Bilderberg and the Agnellis

The official Bilderberg website has a list of current and former members of the Steering Committee.  However, there is no mention in the list of the flamboyant billionaire industralist Giovanni ‘Gianni’ Agnelli (1921-2003). The absence of L’Avvocato is absolutely extraordinary, given the central role that he and FIAT have played within the history of Bilderberg.

The links between FIAT and Bilderberg date back to the Group’s origins in the early 1950s. Vittorio Valletta, who was president of FIAT for two decades from 1946 until 1966 was part of the Italian delegation that participated in the first transatlantic meeting, in 1954. Valletta attended again in 1955, and helped organize, on behalf of FIAT, the sixth Bilderberg Conference, held at the Hotel Palazzo della Fonte, in Fiuggi, in 1957, which he did not attend for family reasons.

Enter Gianni

The 1957 meeting in Italy is the first of the thirty-six Bilderberg Conferences in which Giovanni ‘Gianni’ Agnelli takes part: it is the debut on the international scene of the dashing aesthete with a magnetic charm and a devastating smile. Quickly bored, Gianni lives at a thousand miles per hour, fascinated by art, women, architecture, cars, football and politics —  especially international relations.

His assiduous interest in the Bilderberg Group’s activities ensures that Gianni Agnelli is soon identified as the ideal candidate to take one of the two Italian chairs in the Steering Committee. Shortly after the 1958 conference, Gianni was invited to a meeting of the ‘Enlarged Steering Committee’ — the first time that Agnelli had access to the backstage of Bilderberg.

But it is not until the early years of the next decade that Giovanni Agnelli finds himself fully involved in the activities of the International Steering Committee. On 20 November 1962, he is invited him to a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Group aimed at defining the agenda of the Bilderberg Conference of 1963 in Cannes. The Cannes conference is the first at which Agnelli took part as a full member of the Steering Committee.

Before long, Gianni became a business partner and friend of one of the most influential people in the history of Bilderberg, the American banker David Rockefeller. The two shared many ideas besides the love of sailing and the same conception of world order, and were instrumental in making Bilderberg more business oriented. He also became enamoured of young strategist and intellectual, a protégé of the Rockeller brothers — Henry Kissinger. Over time, they formed a friendship that became an anchor of stability in their respective lives. As Henry Kissinger wrote, in a foreword to a book on his friend:

“During the last two decades of his life, no one was closer to me than Gianni Agnelli. We spoke on the telephone three or four times a week and whenever something interesting happened in either of our lives. We spent time together when either of us traveled to the other’s country, which was every month or so.”

In 1981, Gianni Agnelli was co-opted in the Advisory Board (a sort of Bilderberg Hall of Fame), reflecting his commitment to the Group.

Bilderberg and FIAT

In an article La Repubblica in 2013, Giuliano Balestreri observed that most of the Italians who have been co-opted in the Steering Committee from 1960 to today have at one point or another seen their personal interests allied with those of FIAT:

  • Paolo Zannoni had most of his career in FIAT, holding important positions including: president of FIAT Washington Inc.; representative of FIAT in the Soviet Union; and senior vice-president for the development of international affairs of the FIAT group.
  • Career diplomat, Gian Gaspare Cittadini Cesi became CEO of FIAT France after going to rest.
  • Renato Ruggiero was responsible for the international relations of the FIAT group between 1991 and 1995, after having held the position of Minister of Foreign Trade and before becoming Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • Mario Monti was co-opted on the Board of Directors of FIAT Auto SpA in 1988, at the age of 45.
  • Franco Bernabè debuts his career in the private sector in FIAT, where he joined in 1978 as chief economist at the planning office. He then became director of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (FCA).
  • Tommaso Padoa Schioppa was co-opted on the board of directors of FIAT Industrial on December 15, 2010. Three days later he died as a result of cardiac arrest.

After Gianni, John

Gianni’s younger brother, Umberto, was invited to his first Bilderberg Conference in 1983, and ended up joining Gianni on the Group’s Steering Committee. Umberto died in 2004, a year after Gianni, forcing the then 28-year-old grandson of Gianni, John Elkann, to oversee the family’s investment in FIAT. Elkann was invited to attend his first Bilderberg Conference in 2005, in his capacity as Vice President of the FIAT Group. To quote a Reuters article from 2012:

When he inherited Fiat, Elkann got much more than a company. Just as General Motors and Ford have shaped America, Fiat’s history is tightly entwined with Italy’s transformation from a poor agricultural nation to a top industrial power.

John Elkann was invited to joined the Steering Committee in 2015, the same year as the journalist Lilli Gruber. And it is Elkann who is acting as the principal host of the 2018 Bilderberg conference in Turin, the longtime home of Fiat and the Agnellis.