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Fiat Magnate’s Son Found Dead

November 15, 2000

ROME (AP) _ Edoardo Agnelli, the son of the head of the Fiat dynasty, was found dead Wednesday under a highway bridge, the second tragic blow to strike Italy’s most prominent family in recent years.

Investigators suspected suicide in the death of the 46-year-old son of Fiat magnate Giovanni Agnelli. Edoardo Agnelli was described by friends as a dreamer more interested in mysticism than making cars, but his death gave new edge to the question of who will lead Fiat in years to come.

Fiat officials said Agnelli’s body was found by a highway patrol alongside a stream under a 240-foot-high bridge. Italian reporters who went to the scene about 50 miles from Fiat headquarters in Turin said the body suffered trauma to the head and face from an apparent fall.

Agnelli’s empty Fiat Croma, its motor still running, was parked on the bridge above, said company spokesman Franco Sodano.

The body was removed for an autopsy after Giovanni Agnelli, 79, joined police officials at the scene.

Agnelli family members generally travel with bodyguards, but Edoardo apparently did not. He never seemed cut out for the family’s business tradition and had shown little interest in the Turin-based automobile empire founded by his great-grandfather 101 years ago.

When the time came to groom a successor to be Fiat head, the nod went to Edoardo’s cousin, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli. But the heir apparent, who had been working his way up from a start on the assembly line, died of cancer three years ago at age 33.

Like the Kennedys in the United States, the Agnelli family’s doings are widely chronicled in Italy. Giovanni Agnelli is quoted frequently on subjects ranging from business to finance to soccer. Edoardo served briefly on the board of directors of the family-owned soccer team, Juventus.

Edoardo, who was named for a grandfather killed in a 1935 airplane crash, was born in New York, raised among the elite in Turin and studied religion at Princeton University.

He spent some time in India, pursuing his interest in religious mysticism. ``I love to lead a withdrawn life, ascetic if you prefer, to keep in touch with myself,″ he told an interviewer in 1986 _ the same year he took part in a world day of prayer in Assisi.

A rare mention in the news came after his arrest for heroin possession in Kenya 10 years ago.

``He was a sensitive soul,″ said Princeton classmate John Pepper, who described Agnelli as genuinely concerned about humanity.

Of his relations with his family, Pepper said: ``He was in awe of his father.″

Among condolence messages pouring in, Premier Giuliano Amato said he was ``deeply struck by the renewed pain striking″ the Agnelli family.

Never married, Edoardo lived near his parents in the hills outside of Turin.

Since neither Edoardo nor his sister, Margherita, showed interest in the company, the Agnellis have turned to outsiders to run Fiat. The company brought in Paolo Fresco from General Motors as chairman. Giovanni Agnelli currently holds the title of honorary chairman of Fiat.

Edoardo Agnelli is survived by his father, sister and mother, Marella.

Relatives gathered at the family compound in Villar Perosa awaiting word on the timing of the funeral.

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