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Agnelli: playboy, paragon of style, working man’s hero

Everything you want to know about the legendary Fiat magnate, Gianni, is in this sleek HBO documentary   
Carmela Fernando | Sep 18 2018

Fast cars, faster women, and high fashion were what high-rolling industrialist and aristocrat Gianni Agnelli lived for when he wasn’t being the legendary Fiat magnate. And his brand of indulgent glamor takes the spotlight in the HBO special Agnelli, directed by Nick Hooker. In this less than two-hour portrait, friends, lovers, family, members of Italian society and style luminaries contribute compliments and anecdotes about the man. Says Diane Von Furstenberg in one scene: “Every woman was in love with him, every man wanted to be him.”   

Fashionable playboy that he was, he was also lauded as the working man’s unlikely hero.

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With dad Giovanni Agnelli Senior  Dgtmedia - Simone at Italian Wikipedia

In the 20thcentury, the well-renowned motor corporation Fiat was Italy’s main indicator of economic and political stability: if the brand thrived, the country was prosperous. However, the world wars, civil unrest, state mergers, and general political upheaval caused the company to be on shaky ground, threatening hundreds of Turin workers with joblessness.    

Agnelliwas having none of it. He refused to lay off his workforce, and instead brought the world-renowned company out of impending bankruptcy by selling a share to MoammarQadaffiin 1970, effectively saving Fiat and the livelihood of those who kept it running.

But he was also an influential daredevil, a natural seducer, and a quirky paragon of style.

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Gorupdebesanez via Wikimedia Commons

In the second part of the five-chapter documentary (the first part explored the ladies’ man side), his charismatic personality was highlighted, as evidenced by the way he conducted his day-to-day activities outside of work.

First, he knew how to woo the ladies. “Everbody’s a playboy,” the magnate said once. “Everybody tries to be one, some manage it, some don’t.” Agnelli certainly knew how to manage it. He was a tireless lover who had countless prominent personalities angling for his attention and a place on his bed. He dated fashion models, celebrities, political figures, and ended up marrying a member of royalty. Even high-class ladies of the night were no stranger to his charms.

He was a strong believer in discretion, though, and had a special villa where he and his friends took their dates for the night, well away from the prying public and the knowledge of their wives.

Agnelli was also an adrenaline junkie. Who else would fly over the ocean in a helicopter and dive into the waters from a few hundred feet? He did this so he can swim to his yacht. Or, he’d race around the narrow streets of Italy only to be flagged down by the local polizia for overspeeding—and to take an impromptu tour of his sportscar of the day.      

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@thecadclub on Instagram

And there was his near-impeccable fashion sense. The man had always dressed to the nines with the typical Italian flair. Scores of men emulated his choice of outfits, plus his signature method of wearing his wristwatch over his shirt cuff. (It was borne out of sheer practicality. His shirt cuffs were too tight to fit a wristwatch underneath, so he wore his watch over the cuff).

He was a strong influencer for Western and Italian culture, putting his well-known sense of vanity to good use. 

After his death in 2003, Agnelli left behind a legacy of incredible courage that it takes for one to be authentic, to always look your best, to and to step out of one’s comfort zone as often and as consistently as possible. He was a man who knew pleasure and was attuned to one of its true essences. “Oh, I’ve certainly never been short of pleasure,” he said once. “Do you know what real pleasure is? A creative act. A pleasure without creativity is dead boring.”  

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