italian version
An interview with Tommaso Fanfani Chairman of the Piaggio Foundation
by Giuseppe Paletta
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The Initial Motivations
Between Public and Private
The governance
The Relationship between Foundation and Business


G.P: First of all, thank you for the clarity and completeness of your introduction that will allow me the opportunity to focus on the different single issues that you have raised. Foundation, archives, and museum: what is their juridical relationship?

T.F: The Foundation is the only legal party. It is recognized regionally, has an initial endowment and lives thanks to contributions of its partners: 50% from the company and 50% from the two local bodies. Moreover, the company gave the building to the Foundation with a three-year interest-free loan. All the things in the museum and in the archives belong to Piaggio. The Foundation manages and administrates these cultural assets. G.P: So the company gave the means for ‘cultural production’ and the Foundation uses them to organize a substantial part of its activity. T.F: That’s right. In fact, the activities of the Foundation come from independent choices of the institution, regardless of what the needs and expectations of the partners may be. Obviously there is a board of directors to whom the chairman gives an annual account of the foundation’s policies and this ensures the sharing of common goals. The complete independence of the foundation has never been questioned. It is also necessary to say that the company took on both the regular and extra upkeep of the building ; its daily running, maintenance ( let’s not forget that the Museum and the offices used by the Foundation cover 2500 square meters!), personnel, everything. The Foundation has its own budget coming from the annual contribution of the partners and is entirely contributed to the realization of the activity. G.P: Right. So it’s clear that the investment of the company actually involves a lot more than its 50% quota. Let’s speak of a different matter. Previously, you spoke about the fundamental question of the cultural independence of the Foundation. This is clearly guaranteed from an internal governance: can you describe it? T.F: The structure revolves around the board of directors that appoints a chairman chosen, according to the statute, from among the four directors designated by the company. The vice-chairman, again according to the statute, is chosen from the directors publicly appointed, in the same way that the president of the auditors’ committee is. From the governance point of view, let’s say that everything comes from the board of directors who, however, have delegated a notable margin of autonomy for operation to the chairman. This is undoubtedly the consequence of the experience that this foundation has developed from its origins up to now. There has never been any interference from the company or the partners on the functioning of the Foundation. As far as the contents are concerned, we gave ourselves very few rules related to the use of our buildings. For example, we do not host labor, political or religious demonstrations. These are the only limits. For the rest, the governance of the Foundation revolves around the chairman who, having the complete confidence of the Board, gives the orders and takes care of the management and so on.

G.P: One might say it is a governance based on the person of the chairman and his authority. On the other hand, in this situation the chairman –in other words, you—are the one who started and carried out the project. T.F: Yes. I must say that for the first three years, from 1994 to his death on December, 13 1997, the chairman of the Foundation was Giovanni Alberto Agnelli himself. At that time, the Foundation had an extremely authoritative scientific committee that I promoted in 1994 and of which I was the president. It was formed by Salvatore Settis, now director of the Normale, Riccardo Varaldo and, also in Pisa, the Superintendent of that time, Gian Piancastelli. G.P: For archival assets I imagine. T.F: Of the entire sector. In the provincial Superintendence offices, there is no distinction among categories as in the regional ones. Here the Superintendent is responsible for monuments and art galleries as well as the preservation of archival assets. In the scientific committee, there was also Pier Saillot who, at that time, was one of the directors of the Villette in Paris; there was Autieri, a Fiat former manager. Keep in mind that Giovanni Alberto was the son of Umberto Agnelli so he kept a direct link with Fiat. There was also Marco Dezzi Bardeschi, architect, professor of architecture at the University of Florence now at the Politecnico in Milan and Stefano Trumpi, a computer scientist who I believe still has the responsibility in the G8 on the computerization of the African continent.

It was a scientific committee of an extremely high level, also because Giovanni Alberto Agnelli did not address the cultural activity of the Foundation himself. Instead he was the chairman but delegated the scientific committee to make the proposals that the board of directors then carried out. At that time, there was also a managing director who followed the construction of the museum, the procedure, the public and private funding and executed the board’s resolutions. With Giovanni Alberto Agnelli’s death, this asset changed considerably. The scientific committee, for a series of different reasons, was eliminated in 1997. The committee was gradually diminishing and all the governance of the Foundation was taken over by the board and the CEO. This happened in the years before the death of Giovanni. When he died, I stepped in (March 1998) and so there was continuity in the presidency between the two individuals who, with different roles, had started the Foundation. Naturally, I give the Foundation general lines oriented to the total autonomy in its relation to the company, also because Giovanni was the chairman of the company and wanted a person who also came from it to become CEO. For me, on the contrary, the most important thing was to underline the cultural character in the operation. The CEO then, for a number of reasons, left the foundation between 2000 and 2001 and the board, from that moment temporarily delegated responsibilities to the chairman which had previously been the prerogative of the CEO. G.P: So the chairman is a sort of CEO. The scientific committee, which was a relevant subject during the first stage, disappeared and so everything is centered on the dialogue between the chairman and the partners. Is that right? T.F: Yes, it is. Naturally the chairman is a link between the company and the public bodies, so it’s clear that his role is based on a relationship of mutual trust, otherwise it would impossible to accomplish much. G.P: In time, the number of governance players was reduced. T.F: Yes. The scientific committee is no longer there nor is the CEO. G.P: I’d like to ask you a malicious question. T.F: Go right ahead. I like malicious questions. G.P: Don’t you think there could be a problem of continuity? When the structures are more rarefied, as in this case, the stages of succession are more delicate. It would be necessary to invest more energy to train individuals that can guarantee the continuity of the institution. T.F: That’s not a malicious question. G.P: It’s an honest one.

T.F: I have to say that the Foundation could run all by itself, in the sense that, given the solid relationship among the partners and the continuity of the contributions, the institute has its own staff where I have personally supervised the division of skills and expertise. There are, for example, people trained for the management of an archives. Since it opened to the public in 2000, our historical archives has provided resources for the preparation of 45 university theses. It has also become an extraordinary repository for a wide range of publications, articles and research studies to be used by researchers on themes such as administration, corporate accounting, management, organization, internal relations and so on. The archives is a valuable source for publications and research linked to the product –to the history of Vespa, the image of Vespa in the cinema, in communication, in the history of communication and the evolution of design. Part of our staff has attained consolidated expertise on a sizeable archives: 4000 bundles, 21,000 files concerning company personnel that still needs to be catalogued; 80,000 product designs that the company recently gave us, only the tip of a iceberg, given that the designs I could acquire are almost one million. Then, there are other co-workers who take care of the vehicles park since we are constantly involved in external events. Right now we have some empty spaces in the museum because the items are in Tokyo on display at an exhibition on Italian art and culture. One of our historic vehicles and many old advertising illustrations are being shown temporarily at the Italian Culture Institute in Hanoi and we are present in many other national events (one week ago at the Senate we inaugurated an exhibition of the 1953 film “Vacanze Romane” (Roman Holiday) with models of the Vespa). The personnel that follows the activities of the Foundation and external events is highly skilled in managing relations with our public partner and with the local authorities, including the institutional relationship with the Region and with the State. We can therefore say that continuity exists in the Foundation’s daily running, largely based on an extremely simple corporate model. There is also to say that the company gives a guarantee, I would say almost total on the continuity of the governance from a managerial point of view. So, if tomorrow there is no Tommaso Fanfani to be the chairman, the company can find a new chairman with adequate professional training consolidated by the experience of these past years. People change, but the skills remain because they are passed down. To conclude, I don’t see any danger of discontinuity of skills or expertise. The only risk is that the company, in exceptional circumstances, could cast doubts on the model of the Foundation. At the present moment I do not see any risk at all. Last year, which marked the sixtieth anniversary of Vespa, Roberto Colaninno launched the idea for a new museum, appointing Massimiliano Fuksas, a renowned architect, to design the project. The new museum would be a few hundreds of meters distant from where it stands now and would be built inside the plant. There are one or two warehouses about 20 meters high dating from the early 1950s: the project envisages an extra story over the large operative space, for storage of (recently produced) vehicles yet to be shipped out. The first floor is seen by the visitor to the museum, a space that is not always full, but sometimes may contain around 25,000 vehicles. The museum, as I was saying, will be placed on a suspended level between the roof of the warehouse and the first floor, formed by many transparent spheres and using different colors dedicated to the different functions of the foundation. So, if we manage to make this project a reality, the new museum will be twice the size of this one for both dimension and contents and this will allow us to enlarge the vehicle display space; at present we have a repository of about 280 vehicles that we cannot exhibit because of the lack of space. G.P: So the entire structure would be moved. T.F: Exactly; archives, museum and Foundation. G.P: And this would allow the Foundation to become involved in the practical side of the company; that is, company operations. T.F: No. We haven’t really approached this question yet. G.P: Wait, before going further along this path, allow me to conclude the reasoning on the governance: if I have understood correctly, the Foundation trains a staff whose skills become a guarantee of continuity. T.F: Of course. It’s a process that provides the basis in order not to interrupt the Foundation. G.P: So the strength is the relationship between the chairman and the structure seen as an entity that is able to generate its own cultural training and to create its own leadership.

T.F: In my opinion, the strategies in an organization that is public and private at the same time come from outside. Inside there is the process of training, preservation and supply of the services. But the strategic choices – for example, which conference is to be organized, who do we need to interface with, which public event should we participate in – are made by the chairman who, of course, has to agree with the board and, more in general, with the partners. So it is difficult to imagine that one of these young people could suddenly - although he or she certainly will in the future – keep the level of the Foundation’s activity at 360 degrees. The universities are proving to be a wellspring from which to draw potential future professionals. G.P: What I would like to understand is whether the staff can embody the cultural autonomy of the Foundation. As chairman, you have both a political and scientific role at this point in time.. In the future, will the staff be able to guarantee cultural autonomy through, for example, a CEO? T.F: I don’t think so. Don’t forget that the personnel is not hired by the Foundation but by the company. I have managed to make a few changes in these last years. For example, I asked the company to make some resources available and to give up others. The people who work now in the Foundation are university graduates: two people with an indefinite contract and the other two with a project contract. Then there is an artistic advisor who is also currently responsible for institutional communication. She is also a graduate and works with us with a project contract too. Finally there are two guards, former Piaggio workers in charge of the removal of the vehicles, of the surveillance during the opening hours of the museum, of the organization of the guided tour for the schools or other visitors. So, the continuity of the governance is, in my opinion, guaranteed – and I hope I can explain myself clearly - by the Foundation’s own representation of itself. As long as the the project is shared by the three partners, the Foundation will continue to create its own cultural competence, thus linking the political dimension with the cultural one. Therefore, the profile of the chairman of a Foundation (defined by statute as an agent for the cultural promotion of the territory) should not be that of a Piaggio engineer nor that of a pure politician. It is interesting to see how we have evolved from a statute that limited a foundation’s range of expertise to historical research, to the prospective of training young people for active and flexible roles and finally to participation in art exhibitions, plays, book presentations; to contributing conferences about economy, justice and education. G.P: This means to modify the statute. T.F: No. Without touching it. You know, we are quite a flexible structure that undergoes change every time we change the directors. We have met with the notary several times, especially because there has recently been some turnover at Piaggio.

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