Giovanni Agnelli, one of Italy's most powerful businessmen who turned the family car company Fiat into a global industrial powerhouse but recently saw it slump into crisis, has died aged 81, his family said on Friday.
Agnelli, who held the post of Fiat honorary chairman and was widely known as Gianni, had been suffering ill health and last year went to the United States for treatment for prostate cancer.
"Giovanni Agnelli died in his house in Turin after months of illness," the Agnelli family said in a short statement.
Agnelli's death came just as some 70 family members gathered in Turin to start discussing how to tackle the worst crisis in the century-old stewardship of Fiat.
Agnelli, whose grandfather founded the company in 1899, became Fiat managing director in 1963 and chairman in 1966, a post he filled for 30 years.
Rumours of his death last year had sent Fiat's share price higher as traders and analysts said that without Agnelli, Fiat would be more open to selling its loss-making car unit to partner General Motors Corp.