F i o c c hi ’ s hi s t ory
FIOCCHIAll in the Family
By Michael G. SabbethThe Fiocchi empire began improbably with a bit of a splutter,born of a predecessor’s failure and a bank foreclosure. In theearly 1800s Fiocchi family ancestors lived around Bologna, athriving commercial and industrial center. Two of the men followedNapoleon’s army in his Italian campaign and took up residence inMilan.One of them, Giulio Fiocchi, became a bank manager and wasfatefully assigned to oversee a loan made to a manufacturer of black powder and muskets in Lecco, a small city northeast of Milanlocated at the southern tip of the eastern prong of Lake Como.Suffering hard times after the war, the arms manufacturer defaultedon the loan. In 1876 Giulio was instructed to visit the facility andextract whatever funds could be negotiated. On horseback Giuliorode to the gorgeous city, investigated and concluded the borrowerwas insolvent and that any repayment was unlikely.Giulio knew nothing of guns and powder but possessing a keen business intuition, hesensed an opportunity. He consulted with his brother, Giacomo, an engineer educatedat the newly founded University of Milan, on the viability of starting their own ammunitionbusiness. Since the time of the Roman Empire, that area of Lombardy had been famousfor manufacturing metallic small parts. The first cased ammunition for breach loadingfirearms started to appear and Giacomo was willing to risk that metallic case ammunitionproduction could be profitable.Giulio persuaded his Milan bank to loan them the money to buy the defaulting company.They ceased musket production and in 1877 hunting and sporting ammunition productionbegan under the name Giulio Fiocchi Enterprise.Fiocchi implemented a forward vision of employee benefits and relationships. In 1904Giulio Fiocchi built houses in Lecco for the workers and paid them sufficient wagesto enable them to afford a decent living and to buy the houses if they desired. Fiocchihired women and built a school and a nursery for the workers’ children, which still are inoperation. These enterprises were all funded by the Fiocchi family, resulting in workerloyalty so strong that presently many third and fourth generation workers are at the firm.Fiocchi became a principal supplier of ammunition to the Italian army during WWI.Giulio, who fathered thirteen children, died in 1916 and bequeathed the company to sonCarlo. Although Italy endured difficult times after WW I during its reconstruction, Fiocchiflourished.Shortly after the commencement of WW II, the Fiocchi factory was seized by the NaziWermacht. As defeat became imminent, the Nazis attempted to destroy the plant to keepit out of Allied control. Fiocchi workers thwarted the Nazi effort but their accomplishmentwas somewhat pyrrhic in that British and American bombers almost totally destroyed thefactories. After the war the seven Fiocchi brothers faced a stark choice: go their separate ways orrebuild the factories. They decided to rebuild. Assisted by their workforce of about fifteenhundred, the facilities were reconstructed in about one year, without any investmentfrom the Marshall Plan. After the war Carlo served as an economic advisor to the primeminister of Italy.The facilities were modernized with new equipment boasting superior design andtechnology, many designed by Fiocchi engineers tailored specifically for manufacturingmodern ammunition. As related to me by Carlo Fiocchi, the current vice president of Fiocchi of America, grandson of Carlo mentioned above, Fiocchi thus gained an edgeover other ammunition manufacturers in the 1950’s and 60’s. “The factory was extremelymodern by ammunition company standards.”The ammunition market changed at an accelerating pace after WW II, with globalizationcreating competition beyond regional and national spheres of influence. The companyhad to become marketing oriented in addition to constantly improving product quality.
Fiocchi Munizioni SpA
The ammunition company founded in 1876 now operates as Fiocchi Munizioni SpA.Still headquartered in Lecco, it is owned wholly by the umbrella entity, Giulio FiocchiHolding. I was told about seventy Fiocchi family members have shares in the holdingcompany. Fiocchi of America is one of the international divisions wholly owned by FiocchiMunizioni. Current executives are cousins and fourth generation descendants of Giulioand Giacomo.I visited the factory this past November. Alessandra Selva, a brilliant assistant marketingmanager, greeted me at the receptionist’s desk. An array of massive trophies lined theshelf behind the reception area. Signed posters of world champion competitors lined thewalls. I received my security badge and was introduced to three executives.Pietro Fiocchi, president of Fiocchi of America, radiates energy and gives the impressionyou’d get shocked if you touched him. Cousin, Stefano, is president and CEO of FiocchiMunizoni SpA. Pino Fiocchi, father of Carlo of FOA, had been president of FiocchiMunizioni for over twenty years commencing in the 1960’s. I did not meet him but learnedthat, although eighty-five years old, he continues to work as an engineering consultant.Cousin Costantino, an elegant man with upright bearing, is technical director of FiocchiMunizioni. He took me on a tour of the facilities and, in flawless English, began aconversation talking about fly fishing in Colorado.