Piaggio Group supremo Roberto Colaninno and former Ducati chief executive Gabriele Del Torchio are preparing to ride away from their respective roles in charge of struggling Italian national airline Alitalia, after signing up to a rescue deal with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.
Besides his extensive powered two-wheeler interests, Colaninno has been chairman of Alitalia since 2009, when he led a take-over of the loss-making airline by a group of Italian investors. He subsequently recruited Del Torchio from Ducati last year as its chief executive.
Following their failure to secure sufficient backing in Italy to turn around the business and retain domestic control, they have negotiated an agreement whereby Etihad will acquire a 49 per cent shareholding in return for taking on Alitalia’s monumental debts and then invest a further £446m of Gulf Arab money to keep it in the skies.
Confirming his departure to Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, Del Torchio said: “My task was to lead the company towards an alliance. I don’t know yet what I will do, but I’m not ready to retire.” Colaninno, who is rumoured to have written off his own investment in an Alitalia stake, had also reportedly said he would step down once a deal was reached.
Perhaps he should have listened to US investment guru Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men who helped out Harley-Davidson in its hour of need. When asked what was the easiest way to become a millionaire, Buffet famously replied: “Buy an airline for a billion.”