Fiat heiress set for court fight over will

A feud at the Fiat dynasty has taken a dramatic turn after a close adviser to the car-maker's founding Agnelli family agreed to take up a court challenge from the only surviving child of the late Gianni Agnelli.

Margherita Agnelli has accused Gianluigi Gabetti of keeping her in the dark about the true value of her father's will. In May 2007, Ms Agnelli, whose father died in 2003, said she was suing Mr Gabetti and two other advisers.

She claimed Mr Gabetti had insulted her after Mr Agnelli died, declaring, "You don't deserve to be the daughter of Gianni Agnelli", and that he and others prevented her inheriting her rightful share of her father's wealth.

But Mr Gabetti, 84, came out fighting in the Corriere della Sera, declaring: "I have been the object of unpleasant and unfounded insinuations by Margherita and her lawyers since May 2007. They continue to depict me as a grand vizier who would like to be the sultan." He rejected Ms Agnelli's charges out of hand. He pointed out that it was Ms Agnelli herself who, in September 2004, had stated publicly that an "equitable solution in the interests of the family and of all my children" had been reached.

Months went by, Mr Gabetti said, and Fiat's fortunes took a turn for the better under new management. But then in May last year, "like a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky came word of this law suit". In October Italy's Court of Cassation rejected an appeal by Mr Gabetti and the rest of the family and decided that the case Ms Agnelli had brought should be heard in Italy and not in Switzerland. But yesterday, Mr Gabetti said he was now in favour of the Italian court hearing as the only viable way out of the impasse.

A source close to the family said the suit was particularly shocking for Mr Gabetti and Ms Agnelli's relatives – including her mother and two sons – because her earlier agreement to what she described as an "equitable solution" was reached after an exhaustive process. "She has never made clear what assets she is talking about or where they might be located," said the source, who declined to be named.

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