" But the ventures that I take are not with my family's money--they're my decisions, my choices, and that's the way I want them to be.It's a very separate but kind wall that's been built, with flowers, between my companies and my family's companies.He puts his fist on his chin, like a Roman senator in a debate, and clicks his blue pen twice as the starting gun for continuing the reminiscence." Obviously I have been taught many things by both my grandfathers," he says.It's an ensemble that should not work—on any man's back—but Elkann has the required dollop of native devilry in him, along with his leathery world-weariness, that makes this outfit work.In a couple of weeks, he will, in fact, jet out to Shanghai to promote Lapo's Wardrobe—to a perfect market of yacht- , label- and party-hungry swashbucklers.It bears both a retro- and future-time-travel appeal—simultaneously evoking something you might see on Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club in the '30s and on a villain in the Under the suit, Elkann has styled a counterpoint to the gangster formality with a white open-necked terry-cloth shirt that has a huge floppy collar, the kind of top that Picasso might have worn on the beach in Antibes with Françoise Gilot.For his part, Elkann has the air of a man fresh off a yacht moored nearby no matter where he is or what time of day you see him.
The last of the litter, born just this March and also privately held by Elkann, is Garage Italia Customs, the hip design and fabrication arm for customizing cars, aircraft, and boats, globally. I have a real passion working with the designers and mechanics.
I'm still one of the largest shareholders in the family business, with my brother [John, the chairman of Fiat] and my sister, which I look at with very serious eyes, and I'm part of it.
But my day-to-day life is building my group, my company, my empire, my story, which I hope one day I'll be able to leave to my kids." He doesn't have children yet--or a wife for that matter--but there should be quite a bit to leave by the time he's done.
Elkann is nothing if not breezily forthright about why there are so many and such diverse enterprises under his aegis and why he's on the prowl to do more. I've helped Ferrari to create the process of tailoring and the one-offs, but the reality is, in a big family company you don't always get to do what you want. With the great respect that I have for the Agnelli family and for the Elkann family, I created Lapo, and this is Lapo's world.
" A prime motivation for me is love—and I love cars," he says flatly, and aptly for a great-great-grandson of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli. It's not an Elkann or an Agnelli world." He speaks not so much in sentences as in whole paragraphs, and he likes to drive conversation rather than ride along in one.