The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

Luca’s New Challenges

13-01-2016

The Italian industrialist revs up for two new challenges — to revive the airline Alitalia and bring the 2024 games to Rome – from the Financial Times on 13 Jan 2016.

 

Luca remains the ultimate Euro-smoothie

Luca remains the ultimate Euro-smoothie

The two curling tattoos peeking out from under his pressed, cuff-linked shirt cuffs give Luca Cordero di Montezemolo a raffish air. The 68-year-old former chairman of Ferrari bounds around his sitting room in Rome, pointing out favourite pieces in his pop-art collection.

Slim, in his tailored blue suit, with boyish long hair, Montezemolo radiates energy and charm, advising me on the best local coffee bars, which he tours on his Vespa on Saturday mornings. The fading tattoos are a playful touch on the arms of the industrialist, who was tipped in 2011 to be joint prime minister of Italy, alongside technocrat Mario Monti. He acquired them in 2005, with his wife, Ludovica Andreoni, 43, a jewellery designer. The couple met in 1999 when he dived from a boat to save her bulldog from drowning — and was bitten for his trouble.

I drink espresso while Montezemolo talks at Formula One speed, fending off interruptions from Lupo, his five-year-old son. The youngster is off school after Montezemolo took him out late to a WWF wrestling show. Lupo scuttles in and out strumming a guitar before going outside to play football with the driver. Montezemolo is as boisterous as his son. It is difficult to keep up.

The family lives on the third floor of a mid-20th-century palazzo in Parioli, an area favoured by Rome’s alta borghesia or upper classes. The apartment is rather low key, but contains a trophy hunter’s haul of conceptual, modern and pop art, Montezemolo’s passion since a “wild” period he spent at Columbia University in the 1970s.

Mad Men-style 1960s armchairs sit alongside antique Chinese vases. A chocolate Labrador, Nina, and a German Shepherd, Sean, run riot on a jasmine-fringed balcony. The family has three more dogs, two parrots, three donkeys and nine turtles at their estate in the hills outside Bologna, where they produce olive oil and wine, and where Montezemolo hunts wild boar.

They also have homes in Anacapri, Cortina, Paris and Abu Dhabi, says Montezemolo, displaying pictures of his 120ft-long 1950s motoryacht. The couple moved to Rome in 2008. Montezemolo is now leading the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

His vision is to stage Olympic events in the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. “Can you imagine the marathon beginning inside the Vatican, passing a mosque and synagogue, with the finish line under the Arch of Constantine, where the Romans celebrated their victories?” asks Montezemolo.

Critics have ridiculed the bid, saying that Rome, mired in a corruption trial dubbed “Mafia Capitale”, is not fit for the event. The games, they say, would be a gift to organised crime. Yet Montezemolo is adamant. “If we assume that, because of corruption, we are not in a condition to run in competition with cities such as Paris and LA, we may as well just shut up shop now,” he says. “I don’t want to underestimate what is going on here, but sometimes we assume that corruption is only in Italy.”

Montezemolo sees the Olympics as an opportunity for Rome to update its infrastructure, which has moved on little since the city last hosted the games in 1960. “Without a major challenge, without a goal, without competition it will be extremely difficult to give a push to this town,” he says. The project, a labour of love, was foisted on him by Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Renzi has also given Montezemolo the task of saving Alitalia, where he is now chief executive. A year ago, the airline was on the verge of collapse, but since Montezemolo orchestrated the sale of 49 per cent of the company to Etihad, he claims to have made huge steps in changing the “culture”.

“You have to remember that, except for the last few years, it has always been a state-owned company. In the past, if a politician said we have to keep a route because it was important for political reasons, Alitalia was forced to maintain it, even if it didn’t make money.”

Montezemolo took on both projects after quitting Ferrari, where he had been president since 1991, under a cloud. Despite winning 14 driver and constructor world championships in 23 years, the company’s Formula One team had been fading, and had not won a world title since 2008. Disagreements with Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Ferrari’s then owner Fiat, spilled into public view when Montezemolo resigned in September 2014.

n his time at Ferrari Montezemolo had brought his passion for art and design to the company, giving all its designers subscriptions to Vogue and Vanity Fair in his first year. “I wanted to expose them to the latest trends,” he says. “It was seen as very unusual but it brought about major improvements in colour, details and interior.”

However, he feels that his contribution has not been recognised. “When Ferrari went public [in October 2015], of the results they presented, 23 of 24 years were down to me and my people,” he says. “So the least I expected from the owners was an official thank you. I didn’t expect a present because the value [of the company at $9.8bn in the initial public offering] was unbelievable, but at least a thanks.”

His living-room ratains much Ferrari identity

His living-room retains much Ferrari identity

Since then, Montezemolo has sold his white FF four-wheel drive Ferrari. He currently owns a Vespa, a Panda, a Range Rover and one remaining Ferrari, a silver metallic, custom-made Barchetta 360, given to him by Fiat’s former head, Giovanni Agnelli, who was best man at his wedding. “But it’s still in the museum. It’s got such a small windscreen, you need goggles and a helmet to drive it.”

Despite the bitter departure he still sees Ferrari as “the most important part of my life, along with my family”. Traces of the carmaker are visible around the apartment: a logoed umbrella and a silver cigarette box; a luminescent image by the hyper-real photographer Andreas Gursky depicts a crowd of technicians surrounding a Ferrari in a pit-stop, while rows of spectators look down on the lighted scene like the celestial body in a painting by Raphael. Other references include two mirror paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto. One, which the artist gave him, is printed with a life-size image of a grinning Montezemolo sitting on the bonnet of a F1 Ferrari. “A nice souvenir,” he quips.

For Montezemolo, the cars themselves are a work of art. “It’s that familiar feeling. Even without the prancing horse, when you see the car, you know it’s a Ferrari.”

He admires other brands with strong images such as Hermès, Patek Phillipe, and Tod’s, whose chief executive is his best friend, Diego Della Valle.

Tod’s is like Ferrari, “always the same, but always new”, he says. He pulls up his shirt to show me the Tod’s cowboy belt he is wearing, “See. Even these were my idea — I told Diego to make them.”

If Montezemolo ever had time for a breather, he would combine his two great passions, Ferrari and Italy.

“I love my country,” he says. “If I could have one month off, I would go to Puglia, Tuscany and Umbria in a convertible Ferrari California. You just flick a switch and the top flies off. I love that.” In much the same way, perhaps, Montezemolo would like to flick a switch and shift a sluggish Italy into top gear.