AgipPetroli SpA

Founded in 1926 by Benito Mussolini, Agip (Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli) was the Italian national petroleum agency. The company suffered serious damage to its facilities during the Second World War and in 1945 Enrico Mattei, a former partisan leader, was put in charge with orders to liquidate the company. He decided not to and his gamble paid off when he began exploration for gas deposits in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. As a result the Italian government decided to establish Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi SpA in 1953 to combine all state-owned petroleum, gas and petrochemical companies into a single corporation. Mattei was put in charge and remained the boss of ENI until he was killed in a plane crash in 1962. During that period the company grew to include not only oil, gas and chemicals but also machinery manufacturing, textiles, finance and even Il Giorno, a major newspaper in Milan. In the 1970s ENI was used as the holding company for a variety of government-owned businesses including mining and more chemicals and it began to make large losses. The Agip name was kept in the limelight by a sponsorship deal with Ferrari which began in 1974 and continued until 1995.

ENI was reorganised in 1983 under Franco Reviglio and began to make profits again and in 1992 it was transformed from a government company into a joint stock company, although the Italian Treasury remained the majority shareholder. In 1993 the company was hit by a scandal which rocked the Italian nation when ENI chairman Gabriele Cagliari and most of his top executives were arrested for bribery. Cagliari admitted paying $16m to government officials. He later committed suicide in prison.

ENI was handed over to Franco Bernabei who slashed the management and sold off more than 60 subsidiary companies as he prepared the company for privatisation. As a result of the cutbacks Agip lost its Ferrari sponsorship deal to Shell in 1996, Shell being rumoured to have doubled Agip's bid. The Italian Treasury sold off 64% of ENI in four separate offerings on the New York and Milan Stock Exchanges. In 1997 Agip returned to F1 as a sponsor of the Benetton team.

In 1998 ENI floated Agip as a separate corporation with the majority of the shares being owned by private investors.