Exor, the Agnelli family investment company with a 30 per cent stake in Fiat and Fiat Industrial, has unveiled a shake up in its management structure as it seeks to expand into the US and Asia.

The shake up sees John Elkann, already chairman of Fiat SpA, becoming chief executive and chairman of Exor. Tobias Brown, 47, joins as chief investment officer. Mr Brown had worked as global chief investment officer for Sir James Goldsmith, and has extensive experience of investing in Asia.

The group has also appointed Alessandro Nasi, a former Fiat executive, to be its head of US investment. The shake up announced late on Friday presages a move by the company, among the largest investment firms in Europe with a net asset value of €9bn, to expand its investment focus into the US and Asia, according to Mr Elkann. The group has some €1bn at hand for investment, although Mr Elkann says it is under no pressure to make decisions.

Exor’s expansion represents the efforts by the fifth-generation of the Agnellis to grow the family business. Mr Elkann’s grandfather Gianni Agnelli, the Fiat group patriarch, masterminded the group’s first push for international expansion in the 1980s and 1990s.

Exor’s increasing focus on investment outside of Italy, where the Agnelli fortune was made, mirrors Fiat’s expansion, under the leadership of Sergio Marchionne, outside of its home country through its venture with US Chrysler. Alongside its shareholdings in Fiat and Fiat Industrial, Exor owns significant stakes in US real estate group Cushman and Wakefield, European corporate finance boutique Banca Leonardo, SGS and, tourism group Alpitour and soccer club Juventus.

Also in the shake up, Carlo Sant’Albano, formerly chief executive of Exor, has been appointed chairman of Cushman & Wakefield. “Today’s appointments represent an important step in the evolution of our company,” Mr Elkann said. “We are well placed to capture new opportunities and meet the challenges ahead of us.”

The move by Fiat and the Agnelli family to expand their operations beyond Italy has given rise to some concerns among Italian politicians and the financial community amid fears it could send a negative signal when the Italian economy is already suffering from weak foreign investment flows.

Mr Marchionne, a Canadian-Italian met members of the Italian government, including Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, on Saturday to explain Fiat’s plans within Italy after the executive set off a political firestorm when he suggested last week he could move the group’s stock market listing, as well as its headquarters, to the US in the event of a full merger with Chrysler.

Mr Berlusconi’s office said Mr Marchionne had confirmed his objective to develop Fiat as an “Italian multinational” and to almost double production of Fiat SpA and Fiat Industrial in Italy to 1.4m vehicles a year. Mr Marchionne however indicated the investment and future of Fiat in Italy depended on labour reforms allowing that target to be met, leaving some politicians to voice concern about the long-term presence of the group in its home country.

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