PORTOFINO, Italy (Jan. 24) — Leopoldo Pirelli, president of Pirelli S.p.A. from 1965 to 1996 and grandson of company founder Giovanni Battista Pirelli, died Jan. 23 at his home in Portofino. He was 81.
Pirelli was honorary president of Pirelli & C. S.p.A. and spent all his working life in the business, according to the company.
Born in 1925 in Velate Varesino, Italy, Pirelli graduated in mechanical engineering from the Politecnico di Milano when he was 25 and immediately entered the business founded in 1872 by his grandfather.
He took the presidency in 1965 and stepped aside in 1996 when the current chairman, Marco Tronchetti Provera, took over.
During his tenure as the company's top executive, Pirelli saw the company go through one union that went awry — with Dunlop Holdings Ltd. from 1971 to 1981 — a failed takeover of former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.'s tire activities and the attempted takeover/forced merger with Continental A.G. The latter, in 1990-91, left Pirelli with more than $550 million in debt; Pirelli took full responsibility for that strategy.
At the same time, though, he was in charge of the company during its successful transition to radial tires and its push into the performance tire segment. He also oversaw Pirelli's growth in the cables industry.
Pirelli is survived by his son Alberto — vice president of Pirelli & C. since 2003 — and daughter Cecilia. Tronchetti Provera was married to Cecilia Pirelli from 1978 until they divorced in 1994.