When Fiat announced that it was spinning off Ferrari, selling its shares to the public, and laughing all the way to the bank, there was some concern over what would happen, and who would win the battle for control. But no matter who wins, and no matter how many shares you own, it won't be you. Not by a long shot.
The bit of consternation over Ferrari ownership stems from an easy misunderstanding of what Fiat meant when it said it would be selling Ferrari to the public. Technically speaking, it was actually only going to sell 10 percent of Ferrari shares to the public, which is not nearly enough for control over the company even if you bought up every last public share. The remaining 90% of the shares would be distributed among current Fiat shareholders, a large chunk of which consist of ownership stakes controlled by the Agnelli-Elkann family, descendants of the original founder of Fiat.
But for the weird nexus of the Universe that consists of both extreme Ferrari fans and devious schemers, there was still hope. A large swathe of soon-to-be Ferrari shareholders were institutional investors, such as pension funds. Theoretically, it would be possible to offer them all obscene, completely illogical amounts of money for their shares, and, under this nefarious plot, one could then control Ferrari completely and do whatever you wanted with it.
Shut it down, turn it into a fish company, have it only make very exclusive chapeaus. Really, whatever you wanted to do with it.
But then came the death blows for the dreamers. First there was confirmation that Piero Ferrari, son of company founder Enzo Ferrari, wasn't going to be selling off his shares. And now comes the final nail in the coffin: Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari Chairman John Elkann are restructuring the ownership plan of Ferrari, so that the Agnelli-Elkanns and the Ferraris will control the company for a very, very long time.
The idea is basically to institute something called a "loyalty plan" for Ferrari shares, in which very long-term shareholders get more votes than people who haven't owned shares as long, or don't plan to own shares for a long time. In effect, it gives the majority of "voting rights" – AKA control of the company – to the founding families.
Under a loyalty plan, Exor SpA, the Agnelli family's holding company, could end up with 36 percent of the votes and Piero Ferrari could get 15 percent if no other shareholders participate.
For all you math majors out there, 36 percent + 15 percent = 51 percent. And with 51 percent of Ferrari, the Agnelli-Elkanns and Piero Ferrari will have ultimate control over the company.
Of course, Bloomberg notes that the people on the 49 percent side of that equation aren't exactly happy with the arrangement, but there really isn't much they can do about it. And there's likely to be heavy demand for Ferrari shares anyways because, you know, Ferrari.
So with the old founding families firmly in control, it doesn't look like Ferrari will be changing into a limited-edition hat maker anytime soon.
Oh, but there is one weird thing that could change. Ferrari could become (legally, at least) a Dutch company.
Does anyone know how to say bella macchina in Dutch?
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