Benettons consider hiring professor to help with Atlantia dispute

FILE PHOTO: Enrico Laghi, when Alitalia special commissioner, attends a news conference at the Alitalia headquarters at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, Italy May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s Benetton family has asked well-connected business economics professor Enrico Laghi to help solve a dispute over the future of Atlantia’s motorway unit Autostrade per l’Italia, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The wealthy family, which owns 30% of infrastructure group Atlantia, has been embroiled in a feud with the Italian government since a bridge operated by Autostrade collapsed in 2018, killing 43 people.

Rome has been threatening to revoke Autostrade’s licence since the disaster and has put the Benettons under pressure to sell their stake in the unit to make room for state-backed investor Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).

Negotiations between Atlantia and a consortium of investors led by CDP have been dragging on for weeks, with some sticking points still to be resolved.

According to the sources, Laghi, who had served as temporary administrator for ailing carrier Alitalia and has strong links with CDP, could help broker a deal.

“There have been contacts between the professor and the family over a role he could take regards Autostrade’s dispute,” one of the sources said.

A final decision over the role Laghi might play is expected in the coming days, the source added, saying contacts between the professor and the Benettons’ holding company Edizione were preliminary and might not lead to a collaboration.

Edizione Holding was not available for comment. Laghi did not reply to a Reuters email on the issue.