Spare Change: Castiglioni Buys Back MV Agusta-for the Price of a Latte!

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Alan Cathcart

MV Agusta is back in Italian hands-in fact, for the third time in two decades, the Castiglioni family has acquired the company. In a deal announced on August 6, current company president Claudio Castiglioni repurchased 100 percent of MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. from Harley-Davidson, the company to which he sold the historic brand for $108 million in July 2008. Castiglioni, 65, reportedly paid Harley a "nominal consideration"-reported to be just €3, or about $4.50-upon completion of this most recent transaction. In fact, the subsequent 8-K filing with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission revealed that Harley essentially paid Castiglioni to take the company back, contributing $35 million in an escrow account for MV to use as operating capital to restart operations over the next year.

Harley's inglorious exit comes after the American company spent nearly $60 million cleaning up MV Agusta's balance sheet and underwriting development of the new-for-2010 Brutale and F4 models. These expenses contribute to a total write-down of $162.6 million on the value of MV Agusta since Harley listed it as a "discontinued operation" in October 2009.

Castiglioni will continue as president, with son Giovanni, 29, the company's current Director of Communication, becoming CEO. "I never thought that I'd find myself in this position again," Castiglioni said. "But I was determined not to let MV Agusta fall into the hands of the sharks of the fund-management community. This is a motorcycle company with a historic past and a glorious future, and it must be treated like a tree that's about to bear fruit, not stripped of its branches in order to save costs."

Assisting the Castiglionis to bring that fruit-including a range of three-cylinder, 675cc sportbikes ready for launch next year-will be the legendary engineer and manager Massimo Bordi, returning to the motorcycle industry after a 10-year absence. Bordi previously collaborated with Castiglioni at Ducati, where he designed the liquid-cooled Desmoquattro engine and championed the introduction of the Monster series before leaving that firm in 2000. "I have already won once together with Massimo Bordi," Castiglioni said, referencing their successful turn-around of Ducati under Cagiva's leadership in the late '80s and early '90s. "We made the most beautiful bikes in the world then, and we will continue with this tradition now."

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