Every year, a number of magazines and institutions compile lists that help us get a gage of the shape and structure of our society. Forbes’ World Billionaires List is one such and, in 2018, it tells us that the comprehensive net-worth of the world’s richest individuals has grown by almost 20% since last year, reaching an impressive $9.1 trillion, distributed between 2208 individuals, hailing from 72 different Countries. What’s Italy’s position in this list? And who are Italy’s richest people?
Italy’s richest man
42 of the listed millionaires are Italian, and they control a grand total of $170.1 billion. You probably won’t be surprised to know that Italy’s richest man is connected to the Country’s food&beverage industry. While Giovanni Ferrero may not necessarily known to the general public, his brand is associated with some of the most popular confectionery products in the world (Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, to name but two). Mr Ferrero leads among Italian billionaires with an impressive $23 Bn.
Contrary to what you might be expecting, fashion doesn’t follow immediately after food in this particular ranking. We have to scroll down to the fourth position to find the name of a fashion empire: Giorgio Armani, with a net worth of $8.9 Bn ranks right above former PM Silvio Berlusconi. The following fashion-related names are to be found from the tenth position on. The “Jeans Genius” Renzo Rosso, President of OTB Group – the parent company of Diesel and Maison Margiela among others – holds a respectable tenth place with his $4.1 Bn. He is closely followed by the Benetton Family. Farther down the list, Miuccia and Marina Prada, respectively on the 16th and 37th position.
Italy’s financial strengths
Examining the rest of the Forbes’ ranking will give you a realistic idea of where Italy’s strength lie, within the international context. A significant part of the Country’s largest fortunes are connected to pharmaceutical empires, such as Walgreens Boots Alliance (whose CEO and Founder Stefano Pessina is the third richest billionaire in the Country) and the Menarini group (whose president Massimiliana Landini Aleotti holds the sixth position of the national ranking and is first among the women).
A family business
Looking at the global Forbes’ ranking and comparing it to the Italian one, it is impossible not to notice that, in the latter, it is easier to match the name of the person listed with the brand they represent. This is due to the fact that most of Italy’s richest currently hold positions in what used to be their family business – a relatively rare occurrence in most other Countries. Therefore, large groups such as Armani and Prada, for instance, are still firmly in the hands of the families that built up those empires from nothing. This is as true for fashion as it is for technology. At number nine, for instance, you will find the name Giuseppe De’ Longhi, which will immediately remind you of at least one house appliance that you either own or have seen multiple times. This is due to Italy’s industrial tradition, which mostly favours the protection of local knowledge, even in the face of economic disadvantages.