The Financial Times once declared the late Gianni Agnelli to be the “uncrowned king of Italy.” His heirs, the Agnelli family, are conservatively estimated to be worth approximately €11 billion (with a b). The annual letter to shareholders sent out by their holding company, the EXOR Group, which holds large stakes in Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari, has a predilection for quoting from Ayn Rand. And they just donated €10 million (with an m) to fight the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Don’t get me wrong, every last bit helps, especially in Italy, where there are at least 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,000 people have died. Ventilators and other life-saving equipment are in short supply in Italy, as they are everywhere in the world, and Italian doctors are being forced to choose who lives and who dies, according to the New York Times. More countries, like the United States, are likely to be hit even harder than Italy.
Really, every little bit helps.
Which is why it’s so weird to see Ferrari, one of the main companies controlled by the Agnelli family and the final holdout in auto manufacturing in Italy, to crow about the paltry sum tossed offhandedly at those who are suffering:
Here are the full details, from Ferrari’s website:
- The Agnelli Family has made a €10 million donation to the Italian Civil Protection Department, as it manages the emergency at national level; and to Specchio dei Tempi /La Stampa (a social assistance organization which operates in the Region of Piedmont), to respond to the local health and social needs in the city of Turin and Piedmont.
- EXOR and its subsidiaries Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ferrari and CNH Industrial - together with companies from outside the Group, including Ermenegildo Zegna and Pesenti Group – have sourced and purchased a total of 150 ventilators, alongside other medical equipment from various overseas suppliers, and are preparing for their immediate air transport to Italy.
- the automotive long-term rental company Leasys (FCA Bank) has provided the Italian Red Cross and ANPAS (the Italian National Association for Public Assistance) with a fleet of vehicles for the distribution of food and medicine to the sick, the elderly and people in need of assistance across Italy.
- EXOR, FCA, Ferrari and CNH Industrial remain in close contact with the Italian Department of Civil Protection, to provide the Country with scouting services – free of charge – to identify medical equipment and healthcare products available internationally, and to provide assistance with customs related matters to ensure expedited import to Italy.
The 150 ventilators sourced is especially good news for Italians, as that is potentially 150 lives saved. Even one life saved is worth it. Ventilators alone can cost about $20,000.
But it’s chump change given the scale of the crisis and the wealth of the family donating it. The €10 million figure amounts to approximately 0.1 percent of the Agnelli family’s net worth, a net worth that often makes more noise finding its way into headlines like “Grandson of ex-Fiat CEO faked own kidnapping after he and transgender escort ran out of cash.”
This isn’t really about the Agnelli family, not really. It is, but it isn’t. They’re one billionaire family, and there are literally thousands of billionaires in this world.
New York is about to need at least 18,000 more ventilators than it already has. The money exists to pay for all of them, even at $20,000 a pop. All in, that’s just $360,000,000. Not even a whole billion.
A whole ten mil is great, but it’s laughably small. The car world can do better.