MILAN, Italy-The imminent retirement of Leopoldo Pirelli as chairman of Pirelli S.p.A. means someone other than a Pirelli family member will head the company for the first time since its founding 124 years ago. Marco Tronchetti Provera, managing director and executive deputy chairman of the firm since 1991 and the company's largest single shareholder, has been named to succeed Pirelli as chairman. Shareholders are expected to confirm the choice at the May 21 annual meeting.
Alberto Pirelli, Leopoldo's 41-year-old son, will continue as one of two deputy chairmen, the No. 2 position at the company. He has board responsibility for the firm's cable business.
The change at the top is not expected to significantly affect the company's operations. Tronchetti Provera has exercised management control over most of the firm's activities since late 1991, after Pirelli withdrew its ``forced merger'' takeover attempt of Continental A.G. and was forced to restructure considerably to raise money to settle debts.
Leopoldo Pirelli assumed full responsibility at that time for the failure of the takeover/merger attempt, which burdened the company with up to $550 million in financial losses.
The elder Pirelli intends to continue chairing the board of partners of the Italian financial holding Pirelli & C., and to serve as deputy chairman of Societe Internationale Pirelli, the Swiss financial holding.
``I have come to this decision on the one hand because of my 70 years of age and 45 years of service in the group,'' Pirelli said at an April 19 board meeting. ``And on the other hand because I know that I am leaving the company in capable and reliable hands.''
Leopoldo Pirelli has served on the Pirelli board since 1954, holding the chairman title since 1965. He graduated from Milan's Polytechnic University in 1950. His grandfather, Giovanni Battista Pirelli, founded the company.
Tronchetti Provera, 48, has worked in Pirelli's top management since joining the company in 1986. He was married to Leopoldo Pirelli's daughter Cecilia until they divorced in 1994.
The Tronchetti family controls a majority stake in an Italian financial holding company that owns 12.4 percent of Pirelli & C., which in turn owns 38 percent of the Swiss holding company SIP. SIP directly and indirectly controls 54 percent of the voting stock of Pirelli S.p.A.