38-Year-Old Italian Billionaire Heir Finally Shifts From DJ to Banking

(Bloomberg) -- Until a few years ago, Ernesto Von Furstenberg Fassio, a 38-year-old heir of the billionaire family that’s invested in industries from finance to fashion, maintained a laser-like focus on his career -- as a DJ and music producer.

Now, Von Furstenberg Fassio is switching to banking, but he’s looking to Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer David Solomon -- who moonlights as a DJ -- as a model of a successful financier with street cred.

38-Year-Old Italian Billionaire Heir Finally Shifts From DJ to Banking

“David Solomon is a big source of inspiration, even if I can’t compare to him as a banker,” Ernesto said in a phone interview. “When the Italian press published a profile of Solomon, my mother told me it’s fortunate someone like that has the same passion as me, it means I don’t have to hide it -- even if I’m a banker.”

Less than two years ago, Von Furstenberg Fassio’s father Sebastian tapped his son to run the family holding company while he recovered from heart issues. The holding, La Scogliera, controls listed Venice-based lender Banca IFIS SpA.

“I was very proud to receive such a commitment from my Dad,” said Ernesto. “I approached the family business with humility, and I’ve been spending the last few years trying to learn as much as possible, using my father as a role model.”

Tough Task

Last week Ernesto had the tough task of telling IFIS’s CEO, Giovanni Bossi, that he wouldn’t be reappointed to the job he’s held for 24 years. Bossi led the bank’s expansion into a firm that now employs 1,700 and specializes in factoring and non-performing loan management.

After so many years “it’s good business sense to make a change at the top management while business is going well,” Ernesto said. “From the majority shareholder’s standpoint, consolidating the business means taking a moment to reflect on possible acquisitions and enhancing the existing businesses in the group.”

Clashes over reorganization and strategy in the last year contributed to the reshuffle, people familiar with the matter have said. Bossi’s 2018 idea to buy Banca Carige SpA, as well as a proposal to boost capital through a reverse merger of La Scogliera into the bank, weren’t viewed positively by the shareholder, the people familiar said.

While eliminating the holding company would have improved the bank’s capital buffers, it would also have diluted the family stake. The proposal, first accepted by the shareholder, was later dismissed, and in February the family said they would explore different options to boost capital, preserving their interests.

Bigger Role

Sebastien Egon Von Furstenberg founded Banca IFIS in 1983. The initial business was linked to factoring and credit and it expanded to banking and NPLs later on.

38-Year-Old Italian Billionaire Heir Finally Shifts From DJ to Banking

From the outset, the development of Furstenberg’s company was linked to Giovanni Bossi. The family accountant was asked to lead the firm on an interim basis in 1995, and he stayed on in the role thereafter. The company posted net income of 147 million euros ($166 million) in 2018 and will distribute about 28 million euros of dividends to La Scogliera, which holds 50.2 percent of the bank.

The Furstenbergs eventually picked Banca Finint chief Luciano Colombini to succeed Bossi.

In addition to running the holding company, Ernesto will likely be named a director at the bank’s annual meeting in April, indicating a bigger role in IFIS’s future. His father said in an interview with daily Corriere della Sera that he views IFIS as “a prize I always wanted for my son.”

A grandson of Clara Agnelli, sister of Fiat family patriarch Giovanni Agnelli, Ernesto played on Italy’s national golf team with the Molinari brothers, both successful pros now. Though he graduated with a law degree and a Master’s in accounting and auditing, Ernesto initially took a path away from his family roots in banking.

Club Culture

“Until a few years ago, the most important thing in my life was music -- house music and club culture,” Ernesto said, and in 2011 he and a friend became a a DJ duo, eventually working at the Pacha disco on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

“Success came quickly,” Ernesto said. “We traveled the world playing records in famous clubs from Milan to London to Miami, and then started producing records. Last December our first EP came out.”

Now a married father of two, Ernesto says his own father is an enlightened president who will retain his role at the bank. “Dad has always set the bank’s strategies and guidelines, and he will continue to do so.”

Even as he assumes more responsibilities, “music will always remain in my life,” Ernesto said. “But now, as a passion, not a career.”

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