RIP Roberto Colaninno – head of Piaggio & Vespa

Mantua, 19 August 2023 – Omniaholding S.p.A. announced the death last night of Cavaliere del Lavoro Roberto Colaninno, Chair of the Immsi S.p.A. (IMS.MI), Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Piaggio & C. S.p.A. (PIA.MI).

Chairman and CEO of  the Piaggio Group, Roberto Colaninno has passed away aged 80. It was announced at the weekend in a press release by Piaggio on Saturday, 19 August, just days after his 80th birthday.

When the Immsi group took over Piaggio  in 2003, the Italian businessman took over at the helm of Italy’s largest powered-two-wheeler manufacturer, which at the time produced mainly scooters and three-wheelers under their Piaggio, Ape and Vespa brands, as well as scooter and a few small-capacity motorcycles, the Gilera and Derbi brands too.

A career that began in 1969 at the auto components company Fiaam in Mantua, Colaninno became CEO of the company. He was later CEO of typewriter and computer manufacturer Olivetti, was involved in the takeover of Telecom Italiana, and then later Piaggio.

Under Colaninno, Piaggio acquired both the Aprilia and Moto Guzzi brands in 2004 which saw the manufacturing giant move into the world of large capacity motorcycles. Colaninno also oversaw the launch the three-wheeled MP3 scooter platform, which subsequently become a popular sight on the streets of European cities, Paris in particular, helping spawn a market in similar vehicles produced by rival manufacturers.

The hand built Vespa 946 was another scooter launched, that differed from the regular vehicles produced prior to that; this one being an expensive, high-end scooter produced in limited numbers. Colaninno was a regular sight at scooter press launches I attended during the early 2000s, keen to see how new products went down with the world’s press.

He also attended the Eicma Motorcycle Show in Milan where he would speak during the press conference on the Piaggio Group stand, his appearance often resulting in a scrum among the local Italian press in particular.

On 27 July 2023 the Piaggio half year report was released and Colaninno announced: “The Piaggio Group has closed the seventh consecutive quarter to report growth, with its best results to date. At 30 June, net sales had risen by more than 11%, to over one billion euro, 324,600 vehicles shipped worldwide, up by 1.2%.”

For Piaggio, Colaninno expanded their production with new plants in India and Vietnam being opened to produced scooters for the local markets, and a new plant in Indonesia announced in late 2022.

In recent years Colaninno also served as Chairman and a member of the Alitalia Board of Directors, as a director of Mediobanca, Capitalia and other financial entities, and as a member of the Confindustria Management Committee and the Confindustria Board. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary degree in Business & Economics from the University of Lecce. In 2013, he was awarded an honorary master’s diploma in Management, Innovation & Services Engineering from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, a special-statute university in Pisa. In 2000, he was made a Cavaliere del Lavoro of the Italian Republic, and in 2014 he was made an Officer of the Legion d’Honneur.

Roberto Colaninno is survived by his wife Oretta Schiavetti (married in 1969)  and their two sons Matteo (Piaggio Group Executive Deputy Chairman) and Michele (Piaggio Chief Executive of Global Strategy, Product, Marketing and Innovation).


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