Giuseppe Aquila, the charismatic and impeccably styled CEO of legendary luxury brand Montegrappa in his interview with Luxurious Magazine talks about his role within the company, and the moment that changed his life.
For almost 100 years Montegrappa has been creating some of the world’s greatest writing implements from its historic base on the bank of the River Brenta in North East Italy – cementing its position as the world’s premier manufacturer of luxury pens.
The affection that people have for Montegrappa has been shown in many historical moments with famed Italian leaders including Victor Emmanuel III and Benito Mussolini using Montegrappa Pens.
Boris Yeltsin gave his Dragon Pen to Vladimir Putin on the 2nd January 2000 and with this gesture symbolically handed over power to him. Even today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signs all official documents with a Montegrappa Extra 1930.
In 2010, France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, joined the distinguished gathering of Heads-of-State, Popes, Royalty, Actors, Musicians, Artists, Sportsmen, Top Models, Writers and Celebrities who have been the proud owners of Montegrappa pens during its first century.
Well known users of Montegrappa pens include: Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, His Holiness John Paul II, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, Ernest Hemmingway, actors Antonio Banderas, Al Pacino, Bill Cosby, the late Michael Jackson, and many more renowned personalities too numerous to list.
After a period which saw Global Luxury giant Richemont Group acquire Montegrappa, the Aquila family reacquired Montegrappa, effectively – to paraphrase Bob Dylan – “Bringing it all back home.”
Interview with Mr Giuseppe Aquila by Paul Godbold
PG: Mr Aquila, thank you for taking some time out do to a Luxurious Interview for us. To start things off, can you tell us a bit about your background?
GA: I represent the third generation of my family in the pen business. I was born and raised in a “pen” environment. My education includes humanistic studies, computer-science and a degree in business and administration but all I’ve always wanted to do is to continue my family’s tradition.
PG: What was your first role in Montegrappa and what did this involve?
GA: I joined the company back in 1992 and started off with the task of developing the export business, since our sales were 99% domestic. This involved the creation of literature and marketing material in English and other foreign languages, the search for clients abroad, the participation in international fairs and so on.
PG: Being part of a historic family business, how did you feel when the company was acquired by Richemont?
And when the opportunity arose to bring the company back to the family, can you describe how you felt, especially when everything was completed?
GA: Selling to Richemont was merely a business decision. We got an offer we couldn’t refuse… quoting “The Godfather” movie. Five members of my family (myself included) were the only shareholders in the business at that time. I have to say that the decision to sell wasn’t unanimous though. I cannot tell exactly how I felt at first, since I continued working at Montegrappa’s under Richemont for two years.
In fact, my life and my position in the company didn’t change much at the beginning. And when I left, I got involved in another business (always in the pen industry) and had no time to look back… I realised how much I loved and had missed Montegrappa only when we got the company back.
It was like bringing our baby back home… Two years have already passed since the re-acquisition and yet it seems as if it was only yesterday.
PG: Are any other members of the family involved with the company and if so what roles do they perform?
GA: Basically, four out of the original five family members are involved with the company. My father, Gianfranco is the Chairman and takes care of finance; my mother, Diana is hands-on and supervises production and quality control; my brother, Leopoldo is in design and research & development.
PG: What does the Chief Executive Office of a renowned luxury brand do on a daily basis?
GA: Works really hard… I spend two thirds of my time travelling around the world and one third in our lovely headquarters located in the same original building on the banks of the river Brenta in Bassano del Grappa in North East Italy.
When I’m at the factory, a good part of my time is dedicated to product development, meetings with our design team, clients’ visits, brainstorming with family members and so on. When travelling, my role is mainly PR. In both cases, I spend long hours on e-mails. In the past two years following the re-acquisition of the company, I have had little time for myself, even though I thoroughly enjoy what I do.
PG: Of all the wonderful pieces the company has produced both past and present, what would be your personal favourite and why?
GA: I love most of our creations, as each pen has got its story to tell. I’m not referring to the design or the theme of the pen but to the anecdotes behind the creation of the pen itself.
My personal favourite is the Dragon. This is the pen that gathered international exposure to the Montegrappa brand for its innovative and daring design. This is the pen that started our friendship with Sylvester Stallone, who is a Montegrappa’s shareholder today. This is the pen that was used by Boris Yeltsin to hand-over his power to Vladimir Putin.
PG: Aside from the brand names, are there any fundamental differences between Montegrappa Pens and the Tibaldi Pens?
GA: Montegrappa offers a much wider choice of models, designs and price points. As of Q4 2010, we have started a successful activity of brand extension with the launch of watches and cuff-links. This year, we are going to launch a fragrance and a collection of leather accessories, with more products to follow next year. Montegrappa is no doubt a world-class luxury brand, if not a proper life-style in its own right, with a loyal clientele of discerning consumers world-wide. Tibaldi consists of pens only, in limited edition and designed according to the principles of the “divine proportion”. A good part of the Tibaldi business is represented by the Tibaldi for Bentley collection.
PG: From Idea/Concept to finished article, how long does it take for you to produce one of your limited edition ranges?
GA: It takes 12 to 24 months depending on the complexity of the design.
PG: In your role with Montegrappa, you have been fortunate to meet many famous people, personalities and cultural icons. Which of these meetings excited you the most and why?
GA: The meeting that changed my life is the one with HH John Paul II. I still remember the sense of beatitude that this encounter gave me and that remained with me for long time.
He was an incredible man and the energy exuding from him was tangible. I’ve never met anyone like him and doubt will ever meet someone like him in the future. However, we are talking of a Saint here. When it comes to “human beings”, I’ve had the pleasure to meet heads of state, royalties, celebrities, etc. Two of them made a strong impression on me and today they are shareholders in our business: actor/writer/director, Sylvester Stallone and F1 legend, Jean Alesi. The third one was Muhammad Ali. I spent a day with him and it was like a dream come true.
He represents a piece of American history. No doubt he deserved to be chosen as the first personality to be celebrated with our Icons series.
PG: Our readers will no doubt have noticed the Montegrappa pens on Luxurious. As the CEO of Montegrappa please tell our readers why a Montegrappa Writing Implement is something they should have in their Luxury Collection.
GA: Simply because Montegrappa pens are the best in the world: great designs, superb craftsmanship, exclusive materials, excellent value for money.
Mr Aquila, I would sincerely like to thank you for taking time to appear in a Luxurious Interview. With a brand name like ours there was no way that we would not take the opportunity to interview the man behind the world’s premier manufacturer of luxury pens. We wish you and the company continued success and look forward to seeing many more exceptional pieces from Montegrappa.