Executive Optimism

FRANCESCO GORI, Managing Director Pirelli Tire

“2009 will be a tough year for all industries. The automobile industry is one of the most exposed to the crisis, and this will inevitably affect the tyre manufacturers: with the decrease in the automobile production, the tyre production will go down as well. However, our industry will suffer less than one would expect, because we can rely on the replacement tyre market, which shows better results than the first equipment market. Despite the economic downturn, we believe that we can achieve positive outcomes even in 2009, not for our sales, which are expected to be lower, but for our profitability. We expect positive results due to the restructuring plan outlined in 2008 and aimed at making our business more “agile” and competitive, and also thanks to some of our traditional distinguishing features: we are the number one in the tyre manufacture for the sports car and motorcycle markets; we are leader in some emerging markets, such as South America; we have most of our production plants in these countries, where we want to further expand our business. Furthermore, we are launching lots of ecological products in order to meet our consumers’ demand for environmentally responsible products, fuel saving and increasingly resistant tyres. By the end of the year, we will be able to produce tyres from the rice leaves, in order to reduce the use of synthetic and polluting materials.”

CARLO SANGALLI, President Confcommercio

“I’m an optimist by nature, because being pessimist doesn’t lead anywhere. It is true that we are going through hardship, but we shouldn’t let fear get in the way. As the President of the Italian Republic Antonio Napolitano pointed out in his year-end message, “The only thing we should be afraid of is fear itself”. There are plenty of families, workers, entrepreneurs and enterprises striving for a better future every day. Let me give you just an example. A few days ago, Confcommercio has started a road show dedicated to the small and medium enterprises. Well, in our first leg, Ancona, I saw crowds of attentive listeners. After the meeting, many businessmen approached me and told me about their difficulties, but none of them said they were resigned or willing to throw in the towel. Therefore, in the real economy, Italy is a strong and reliable country. That’s why, as far as I’m concerned, I’m absolutely optimist about the future of our country.”

CLAUDIA GIAN FERRARI, Art Historian and Art Dealer

“It was surprising to see how many people attended Arte-Fiera, the first art exhibition of 2009 held in Bologna, which involved over 200 galleries, both from Italy and abroad. As for the sales, what emerges is a significant dichotomy: some people were able to sell quite a lot of artworks (even to new collectors), while others didn’t sell anything at all. What’s the reason of that? I believe that the ones who managed to have considerable sales presented high-quality artworks (both contemporary and modern), which had never reached the market or auction houses before, and offered a good quality-price ratio. After all, since Lehman Brothers’ collapse, the art market is no longer regarded as an excellent investment opportunity, where prices, much more than values, of contemporary artworks were out of control. Those responsible for creating or influencing such increase in prices were not “collectors” but “investors”. These people have rapidly disappeared, being replaced by old and new collectors that have found again the right spirit to fulfill their genuine passion. In critical times, quality art can’t help but come out.”


I wasn’t there in 1929, but what I know for sure is that today we happen to live in a panic state. This crisis involves too many business areas, and it has nothing to do with the 1974 downturn. People don’t spend any money, and orders collapse. In the furnishing industry, the Italian market has drastically decreased by 20%, the European market by 30-50%, and the United States’ and Japanese market by 50-60%. Moreover, despite the contributions granted by the government to promote consumptions, we still have to bear the brunt of the deductions from employees’ paychecks. We currently produce 25% less than the last year. And 2009 is going to be tougher than we thought. We are working in an emergency situation. However, being entrepreneurs, we must necessarily be optimist, even when the giants all around us fall apart.

GIULIO BALLIO Chancellor Milan Polytechnic

“We are quick to forget the hundreds and thousands years of wars and misfortunes that we have left behind. Crisis and recession scare and hurt, but they’re better than a war! In fact, it was logic and inevitable that sooner or later crisis would arrive. It’s a completely unrealistic illusion to believe in a continuous progress with no crisis or discontinuity. For this reason, even this crisis must be regarded as an opportunity to go back to the fundamental value of our world: the value of work. I believe this is already happening. Our vocation, here at the Polytechnic, is to teach work, and this is something for which we’re generally recognised, as the increasing number of enrolments clearly shows. Young people come to our University because they know that we will make them study like crazy, and that they will immediately find a job after University. I don’t believe Italian young people are immature: and this is an important sign of trust.” GABRIELE DEL TORCHIO, Managing Director Ducati

“Our Superbike champion Troy Bayliss always says: “Never let go!”. Today his motto is more appropriate than ever. It is therefore essential to focus on entrepreneurial values in order to overcome a difficult time and make the most of the opportunities we are given. For many years, we have believed that enterprise was everything: this crisis shows the opposite. In order to win back the trust, we must focus on ideas and on a quick understanding of how to realise our projects: this is crucial to resist and to get stronger, and it perfectly fits in with the small-medium size of our company, and with the motorcycle industry in general. I remember that, looking at one of our motorcycles, some great Japanese mechanical engineers said: “You can tell immediately it’s Italian”. With such material and immaterial heritage, we can look into the future with bright hope.”

NICOLÒ DUBINI, Vice-President Pirelli Ambiente

“We are living an unprecedented historical moment. The financial crisis, together with the issues related to the climate changes and to the environmental protection, involves all countries. Lifestyle in Western countries is radically changing, and this process will be further enhanced after Obama’s election. The energetic efficiency will be one of the main industrial segments to be positively affected by such change. The development of new energy sources will ward off supplying problems, thus reducing the geo-political risk. Recycle is another key sector for saving natural resources and reducing our dependence on foreign raw materials. Italy should take advantage of these great opportunities without delay. The G8 and the Expo 2015 will give Italy the chance to be in the front line and become leader in the environmental sector, also producing new employment opportunities.”

PIERLUIGI BERNASCONI, Managing Director Mediamarket

“It being understood that in 2009 all industrial segments will be affected by the crisis, in 2011 and 2012 industries that manage to keep acceptable levels of profitability will have positive results. In the next two years, Mediamarket group is expected to enhance its market share value, thanks to its innovation capability and its market strategies. One of the major opportunities will be provided, for instance, by the digital terrestrial television, which will be definitely available in Italy by 2012. If the new products provided will have reasonable prices, positive outcomes will be certainly achieved.”

ALESSANDRO COPPO, Managing Director eBay Italia

“Crisis means hard time for enterprises, but it also represents an opportunity to get stronger. When economic resources are limited, consumers’ needs are even more intense. That’s why it is important to be able to offer right products at a lower price. Companies able to do that will be stronger when the economic recovery arrives. In order to be able to achieve this goal, four factors are crucial: no panic, flexibility, maximum efficiency, and ability to face the change. This critical situation requires structural changes: the opportunities for those who are able to offer excellent products at very competitive prices are enormous.”

Excerpted from the Magazine of Il Corriere della Sera (2/19/2009). Original interviews by Lavinia Farnese, Jacopo Tondelli, Andrea Milanesi and Francesca Pini. Translation by Laura Giacalone