E now it will take a new long-term vision for the four branches of the Benetton family, collected in the Edizione safe. That of Luciano, with his son Alessandro, of the cousins Sabrina (daughter of Gilberto), Christian (son of Carlo) and Franca Bertagnin Benetton (daughter of Giuliana). But a four-way consultation will no longer be enough. Because the group now manned by the second generation of the industrial dynasty born with clothing will now have to look beyond. Furthermore, all four family offices also pursued their own investment strategy.
In order to imagine what profile the post-sale investments of Aspi will have – and above all how they will be managed – it is also necessary to understand what are the inclinations of the third generation within each family branch. If the second generation had 14 heirs, now the third sees 41. Many are still young, others, like Alexander’s eldest son, or Sabrina’s are now over twenty years old.
The family unit was found
There is no path yet drawn. Rather a construction site which – if the sale of Autostrade per l’Italia by Atlantia (of which Benettons own 30% through Edizione) to the Cdp-foreign funds consortium for a consideration of 9.1 billion, plus other benefits, will be confirmed by the Atlantia board – now maybe it will be able to leave. Of course, compared to last summer, the four branches of the dynasty have found greater cohesion, dictated above all by the need (and responsibility) of having to move forward. Given that Edizione owns, among others, assets such as the Rome airports and Abertis infrastructures under the umbrella of Atlantia, the telecommunications towers of Cellnex and Autogrill. That is to say that jewel of catering on the highways that now needs to launch new investments after the decline in traffic flows produced by the pandemic. And the 600 million capital increase launched by Autogrill – of which 300 million will be subscribed by Edizione – a bit the symbol of the newfound unity between the heirs and the will to support the investee companies. At least in the medium term.
But everyone has their own ideas
For the rest, everyone remains convinced of his ideas. Alessandro in the first place. Luciano’s eldest son, 57, has had his own business for some time and continues to cherish the idea of becoming independent permanently. It has been talked about for over a year, that is since he was appointed president of Edizione Gianni Mion, as part of a renewal of the board that saw the departure of CEO Marco Patuano. But now it is discussed more calmly. Alessandro manages 21 invest which currently has 23 companies in its portfolio with an aggregate turnover of 1.6 billion, with over one hundred investments in its 28 years of activity. Cousin Sabrina, daughter of Gilberto – the interpreter of the diversification of the Benetton world who died in 2018 – left the board of Edizione where her husband, the accountant Ermanno Boffa, joined her. The recent appointment as president of Edizione of Enrico Laghi helped to regain fluidity in relations with, among other things, the delegation of the reorganization of Aspi, 88% controlled by Atlantia. But also independent directors Claudio De Conto and Vittorio Pignatti Morano, experts in entrepreneurial families.
Once the most serious difficulties have been overcome, we can talk about the future again. But it will not be an immediate question because at this stage all of Edizione’s subsidiaries have come to terms with the pandemic and need support. The hypotheses that have surfaced in the past of an IPO of Edition or of the entry of a minority shareholder who replaces one or the other of the four family branches have been rejected so far. It is possible that the reason is rather around the transformation of Edizione into a European-style family office, following the tradition inaugurated by the European industrial dynasties. Perhaps an example brings it to the Ponzano Veneto family Franca Bertagnin Benetton, for some years independent director of the listed Wendel Group which is headed by the French family of the same name with three centuries of history in industrial investments. Among these, Saint-Gobain, Capgemini, BioMrieux, Valeo. The Wendels were steel industrialists, today they have stakes in large companies such as Bureau Veritas.
The Cellnex case
If that were the way, then one could imagine the new Atlantia without Aspi, but with valuable pieces of infrastructure, combined with other groups in the sector. Edition at that point would have a smaller but more valuable reality share. Perhaps a model is already in the house. Cellnex continues to make acquisitions. For this reason, it has launched a new maxi capital increase of 7 billion in which Edizione has already announced that it will not participate, allowing itself to be diluted from the current 13% to approximately 9%. A smaller share of a larger reality, perhaps destined for other aggregations.
Mediobanca and Generali
A further hypothesis would see Edition in a drier version with real estate, financial quotas (Mediobanca and Generali) and agricultural activities. While the equity investments in listed companies (Atlantia, Cellnex, Autogrill) could be distributed pro rata to the four family branches. That at that point they would have listed shares directly and therefore their hands free.
The United Colors node
Such projects could also create the consensus of the various Benetton branches, free at this point to direct their investments in the activities they prefer. But there are many steps to go through. It is necessary to identify a new guide for Edition that takes the route of routes that are nevertheless complex. Then there is the Benetton group, which has been at a loss for many years (over 200 million last year), a situation now complicated by lockdowns. Give it up? Aggregate it? It will not be a foregone conclusion because the clothing group bears the name of the family and is led by Luciano Benetton.