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Alberto Pirelli, One of the Protagonists of Italian Industrial History, Was Born 140 Years Ago

Alberto Pirelli was born in Milan on 28 April 1882. After Piero, who was born in 1881, he was the second of the eight children of Giovanni Battista Pirelli and Maria Sormani. Ten years earlier, his father had set up GB Pirelli & C., a company that processed elastic rubber. The destiny of the two brothers, who were virtually born into the factory, was sealed from the outset. Their higher education studies were designed to prepare them for the positions they would hold in the company, and they attended the Politecnico University and the Bocconi University in Milan, as well as the University of Genoa, where they both graduated in Law. Right from their adolescence, they worked alongside their father, going on a number of campaigns with the cable-laying ship Città di Milano as well as on some business trips abroad. In 1904 Piero and Alberto Pirelli officially joined their father in the management of the company. They formally became part of company management at a time when the electric and telegraph cables sector was enjoying huge international expansion, and tyres were entering a period of massive growth, after an initial phase of experimentation. For both brothers, these were years of numerous trips abroad, during which they visited companies, presented Pirelli at international fairs, and formed business alliances. Alberto worked in the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Argentina, and in particular he concluded important agreements in the electricity sector, which was dominated by large German and American companies at the time. During this period he became aware of the importance of international relations and of having a full understanding of foreign markets. Thanks also to his diplomatic skills and excellent knowledge of languages, he became one of the best-known Italian entrepreneurs in the world. At the end of the First World War, the skills and experience he had accumulated in important international negotiations led him to obtain a public position of great importance: from 1919 to 1932 he was called upon by the Italian government to play a leading role in international negotiations regarding German war reparations and war debts between the Allies, an experience he later wrote about in his book Dopoguerra 1919-1932. Note ed Esperienze, which came out in 1932. The brothers thus took on separate tasks, with Alberto more geared towards international relations and public office, and Piero more devoted to the organisation of the company and to relations with the workers. In the 1920s, Alberto took centre stage in a number of financial transactions designed to settle the debts incurred by the group, participating in an American loan through Morgan Bank, and consolidating the interests of the electricity and telephone industry in Italy. He continued to be one the most influential businessmen for the Italian government and around the world throughout the 1930s and his work is documented both in the company papers now in the Historical Archive and in his private archive, which has been preserved by the Pirelli Foundation. In 1927 he was appointed president of the International Chamber of Commerce, a position of great prestige, and in 1935 he became president of the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), which he had helped set up the previous year. One of the many positions he held was that of president of the Association of Italian Joint Stock Companies (Assonime). For a short period after the Liberation, at the end of the Second World War, Pirelli was placed into special administration, but Alberto and his brother Piero were soon reinstated in their respective roles as CEO and chairman, which they had held since 1932, the year their father died.

In 1946 Alberto decided to retrace the history of the group, which was preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary, and he wrote a book called La Pirelli. Vita di un’azienda industriale. Upon the death of his brother Piero in 1956, he took on the role of chairman, and passed the baton on to his son Leopoldo in 1965. He passed away in 1971 and has been remembered ever since as one of the greatest Italian industrialists and businessmen since the Unification of Italy.

Alberto Pirelli was born in Milan on 28 April 1882. After Piero, who was born in 1881, he was the second of the eight children of Giovanni Battista Pirelli and Maria Sormani. Ten years earlier, his father had set up GB Pirelli & C., a company that processed elastic rubber. The destiny of the two brothers, who were virtually born into the factory, was sealed from the outset. Their higher education studies were designed to prepare them for the positions they would hold in the company, and they attended the Politecnico University and the Bocconi University in Milan, as well as the University of Genoa, where they both graduated in Law. Right from their adolescence, they worked alongside their father, going on a number of campaigns with the cable-laying ship Città di Milano as well as on some business trips abroad. In 1904 Piero and Alberto Pirelli officially joined their father in the management of the company. They formally became part of company management at a time when the electric and telegraph cables sector was enjoying huge international expansion, and tyres were entering a period of massive growth, after an initial phase of experimentation. For both brothers, these were years of numerous trips abroad, during which they visited companies, presented Pirelli at international fairs, and formed business alliances. Alberto worked in the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Argentina, and in particular he concluded important agreements in the electricity sector, which was dominated by large German and American companies at the time. During this period he became aware of the importance of international relations and of having a full understanding of foreign markets. Thanks also to his diplomatic skills and excellent knowledge of languages, he became one of the best-known Italian entrepreneurs in the world. At the end of the First World War, the skills and experience he had accumulated in important international negotiations led him to obtain a public position of great importance: from 1919 to 1932 he was called upon by the Italian government to play a leading role in international negotiations regarding German war reparations and war debts between the Allies, an experience he later wrote about in his book Dopoguerra 1919-1932. Note ed Esperienze, which came out in 1932. The brothers thus took on separate tasks, with Alberto more geared towards international relations and public office, and Piero more devoted to the organisation of the company and to relations with the workers. In the 1920s, Alberto took centre stage in a number of financial transactions designed to settle the debts incurred by the group, participating in an American loan through Morgan Bank, and consolidating the interests of the electricity and telephone industry in Italy. He continued to be one the most influential businessmen for the Italian government and around the world throughout the 1930s and his work is documented both in the company papers now in the Historical Archive and in his private archive, which has been preserved by the Pirelli Foundation. In 1927 he was appointed president of the International Chamber of Commerce, a position of great prestige, and in 1935 he became president of the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), which he had helped set up the previous year. One of the many positions he held was that of president of the Association of Italian Joint Stock Companies (Assonime). For a short period after the Liberation, at the end of the Second World War, Pirelli was placed into special administration, but Alberto and his brother Piero were soon reinstated in their respective roles as CEO and chairman, which they had held since 1932, the year their father died.

In 1946 Alberto decided to retrace the history of the group, which was preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary, and he wrote a book called La Pirelli. Vita di un’azienda industriale. Upon the death of his brother Piero in 1956, he took on the role of chairman, and passed the baton on to his son Leopoldo in 1965. He passed away in 1971 and has been remembered ever since as one of the greatest Italian industrialists and businessmen since the Unification of Italy.