Postcard from... Milan


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The Independent Online


It’s tempting to wonder whether the movers and shakers behind America’s Automotive Hall of Fame deliberately over-looked the somewhat fruity personal life of new inductee Lapo Elkann, or simply didn’t know about it.

Mr Elkann, a member of the mighty Agnelli dynasty that built up the Fiat car empire, has just received the Hall of Fame’s “Young Leadership & Excellence Award” for his contribution to the rejuvenation of the car firm’s image. Before Mr Elkann, the only Italian to be recognised by the institution was Fiat’s legendary patriarch Gianni Agnelli – Elkann’s grandfather – who led the family’s automotive empire from 1966 to 1996. In PR terms, Mr Elkann probably deserves another award for the way he’s repaired his own image.

As a member of the family known as “Italy’s Kennedys”, the gilded young executive appeared to have it all – wealth, good looks and a reputation as one of Italy’s most eligible bachelors. But rather like  the Kennedys, disaster was close at hand. In October  2005, aged 28, he was rushed  to hospital and almost died  after overdosing on cocaine while partying near Turin with a 54-year-old transsexual hooker called Patrizia.

His misadventure made the front page of every Italian newspaper – including the one owned by his family. When he recovered, he fled to the States, where he presumably didn’t make all the front pages – and where his rehabilitation began.

If grandfather Gianni was spinning in his grave in 2005, he can rest a bit easier now.