Italian football writer, author of Juventus; A history in Black & White.
Lapo Elkann could’ve done nothing, instead, he insists on trying just a little too much of everything. Hailing from a family as famous in their homeland as the brands they own, he is an Agnelli, the closest thing Italy has to royalty.
His grandfather Gianni was the principle backer of some of the world’s most iconic names; FIAT, Ferrari and Juventus. It was a role that ensured the latter spent his life at the forefront of industry, fashion and football while – at times – propping up the nation’s economy almost single-handedly.
In the 1930s, his father Edoardo brought Juve to prominence and his own grandfather Giovanni had previously co-founded FIAT, but it was Gianni who provided the key to making the car manufacturer, the football team and indeed his whole family as prominent as they are today.
Growing his personal fortune to a reported £3.1 billion, he was Italy’s wealthiest-ever man, at one time responsible for almost five percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and employing around four percent of its industrial workforce. With large stakes in Maserati, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo, the Château Margaux vineyards, newspapers La Stampa and the Corriere della Sera, Gianni Agnelli was involved in a string of high profile affairs that saw him linked with Anita Ekberg, Jackie Kennedy and Rita Hayworth.
But even excluding his family history, the story of Lapo Elkann is arguably one even Hollywood scriptwriters would struggle to top. His brother John would be named as the new head of FIAT when Gianni passed away in 2003, while his cousin Andrea Agnelli is the President of a Juventus side who currently dominate Italian football.
Yet it is Lapo who has undoubtedly inherited his grandfather’s insatiable appetite for life. Studying in London, and then moving to New York, he lived in Gianni’s old apartment while working as a personal assistant to Henry Kissinger before returned to FIAT to help inject some much-needed modernity into the struggling brand.
As the FIAT 500 was relaunched, Lapo’s marketing was a major part of reviving the company’s fortunes, but it wasn’t long before scandal would hit; a night out in Turin turned into a cocaine overdose in the apartment of a 53-year-old transsexual prostitute, a three-day coma and a police investigation.
For a while he left the family business, launching “Italia Independent,” a lifestyle and clothing brand before returning to develop the Gucci Special Edition of the Fiat 500 and to run “Ferrari Tailor Made” which enables customers to personally customise the luxury sports car to their own specifications.
In November 2016 he was arrested in New York in the company of another transsexual escort after filing a false police report and faking his own kidnapping, even going so far as contacting his family to demand a ransom of $10,000.
“I wanted to see what I was capable of doing without my family, without my family business, without my family money,” he told Vanity Fair in 2016, and that voyage of discovery seems to be far from over.
That’s the story of Lapo Elkann. Just don’t expect the next chapter to be any more believable.