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Ideas before companies

The story of Marcello Boldrini at the top of Eni

 

Companies are made up of men and women who, through their day-to-day activities, impart not only their technical skills but also their respective cultures and different views of the world that then successfully interpermeate, and it is on this combination of technique and culture, professionalism and perspective, that the culture of production that every company fosters is based. Learning about these individual human experiences can be useful to achieving a deeper understanding of the very nature of production-based organisations,

and that is precisely what happens when you read The Originator of Eni’s Ideas. Marcello Boldrini at the top of Agip/Eni (1948-1967), written by Maurizio Romano and recently published in the Journal of Business History.

Romano’s contribution is inspired by a reflection on how Italy was one of the most important players in the ‘heyday’ of state-owned enterprises in post-World War II Europe. The world needed rebuilding, and economy and production required special attention. What was needed were sharp, honest minds, including in the public administration. With this in mind, Romano explains how senior public sector managers, in turn, were among the key players in shaping the rise, performance and cultural models of the Italian mixed economy.

It was in this context that the figure and consequently the efforts of Marcello Boldrini emerged and took shape, initially as a statistician and academic before being ‘loaned’ to the state oil industry – the Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (Eni) that Enrico Mattei created in the immediate post-war period and developed into a world leader.

Romano’s research highlights Boldrini’s contribution to the development of Eni’s cultural strategy, paying particular attention to the role that large state-owned enterprises played in the economic development process. Boldrini was therefore a key mind working behind and often alongside Mattei, not only culturally, but also operationally. Indeed, Maurizio Romano also highlights Boldrini’s international profile as a public official, notably with regard to relations between Eni and emerging oil-producing countries. Boldrini is one of the most authoritative fathers of an innovative system of international relations that has contributed greatly to the growth and success of Eni,

with Boldrini and Eni demonstrating the highest levels of corporate culture, albeit in a rather unique context. This culture warrants further examination, based not on the results achieved but on those who, like Boldrini, devised, designed and created it.

“The originator of Eni’s ideas”. Marcello Boldrini at the top of Agip/Eni (1948–1967)

Maurizio Romano

Journal of Business History, 2020