Who Is John Elkann?

John Elkann may not necessarily be a household name, but he's certainly associated with a number of corporations with which most of us are familiar, notably Fiat and Ferrari. Although he comes from a long line of industrialists who established the Fiat name, Elkann has established himself as an executive with drive and a vision. Keep reading to find out more about John Elkann's early life, education, career background, and other interests.

Key Takeaways

  • John Elkann is the chair of Exor, a holding firm that has interests in Fiat and Ferrari.
  • Elkann was born in New York and lived in the U.K., Brazil, France, and Italy.
  • He is a member of the Agnelli family, which started the Fiat auto brand.
  • Elkann assumed the role of board member of Fiat in 1997 and became chair in 2010.
  • He oversaw the acquisition of Chrysler by Fiat, along with the merger between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, which led to the creation of a new entity called Stellantis.

Early Life and Education

John Elkann is a member of the powerful Agnelli family that controlled the Italian automaker Fiat. He was born in New York City in 1976. He traveled extensively as a child and lived in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, and Italy. This helped him become fluent in four languages: Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese. According to Elkann, his "life was always about being confronted with an environment where you had to adapt.”

He studied sciences at the Lycée Victor Duruy in Paris and earned an engineering degree from Politecnico di Torino in Turin, Italy in 2001. He held a number of internships that allowed him to see how the automotive industry works.

These experiences allowed him to see the factory, marketing, and sales aspects of the company. His background included a headlamp factory in the U.K., a production line in Poland, and a car dealership in France. By the time he landed a seat on Fiat’s board in 1997, Elkann was already writing his undergraduate thesis on e-auctions as a part of General Electric’s corporate initiatives group.

John Elkann resides in Turin, Italy.

Career

Elkann is the chair of automakers Stellantis and Ferrari. He is also a board member, chair, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Exor, a holding company that has a stake in both automakers. He ranked in the 1580th spot on Forbes' richest list with a net worth totaling $2 billion as of September 2021.

He was raised to take part in the family business under his grandfather Gianni Agnelli's direction. As such, he became a member of Fiat's board in 1997 at the insistence of his grandfather after the death of his cousin, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli.

In 2004, Elkann became vice-chair of Fiat, a year after his grandfather's death. The company was suffering from the poor reputation its vehicles had when it came to reliability. Elkann worked closely with management and helped to turn the company around. He became chair of the company in 2010 at the age of 36 when Luca Cordero di Montezemolo stepped down.

During his time leading the company, Elkann oversaw the acquisition of Chrysler in 2009. He was also instrumental in the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, which resulted in a new entity named Stellantis. The newly formed company has an industrial presence in about 30 countries as well as commercially in 130 markets.

Other Interests

Elkann also holds a number of positions outside of his corporate interests in automaking. Exor owns an interest in Juventus Football Club, which gives Elkann a stake in the club. The league, which is based in Turin, was founded in 1897 and is owned by the Agnelli family.

He is also a board member of several other organizations, including CNH Industrial and The Economist Group. He was also a member of the board of News Corporation.