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Billionaire Has Big Plans for Piaggio

Following its failed attempt to acquire an interest in MV Agusta, the Piaggio Group, owners of the Vespa, Gilera, Derbi and Piaggio brands, needed a cash infusion of its own to continue development of important new models, both scooters and motorcycles. Enter one of the wealthiest men in Europe, Roberto Colaninno.

Colaninno is one of the most successful investors in Europe, having built a large auto components manufacturer and acquired other major business interests. Colaninno had most recently been credited with a primary role in the successful turnaround of Olivetti (the old typewriter manufacturer that had trouble making the transition to higher technology businesses), and led a recent effort to acquire a major stake in Fiat, the automobile manufacturer.

Now, Colaninno has infused Piaggio with significant capital. MD spoke by phone with one of the lead designers for the Piaggio Group two days ago (an individual largely responsible for design of the Tuono for Aprilia a couple of years ago), and Piaggio is understandably excited about Colaninno’s interest, and planning several new products for its motorcycle brands, including Gilera and Derbi. You may recall that Gilera recently showed an 850cc v-twin, automatic transmission motorcycle in prototype form. Expect this bike to go into production, and for several new models to appear from both Gilera and Derbi within the next few years.

Colaninno has tremendous experience as a manufacturer, and his involvement in Piaggio could significantly raise the profile of these motorcycle brands.