Claudio Castiglioni has acquired MV Agusta back from Harley-Davidson at the rumored symbolic price of $1. If this rumor should ever happen to be confirmed by either one of the parties (it will never be), it would mark second time that Claudio Castiglioni has been able to pull off this very lucrative trick. First time was back in the ’90s, when he sold, for a substantial amount of money, a badly limping Cagiva Group to the Malaysian Proton Group. Proton returned Cagiva to him the next year, at a symbolic price of…$1.
So, if the most recent news is solidly based, it would mean that Harley-Davidson saw an investment well in excess of $100 million go down the drain, just like that. In fact, in addition to paying Claudio Castiglioni a cool $75 million for the acquisition of MV Agusta, Harley Davidson invested in excess of $30 million in new tooling and in financial reserves to cover the losses all the way into 2011, at which point H-D’s plan was to have MV Agusta reach the break-even point.
Now, a solidly refurbished MV will be run by the same Claudio Castiglioni and by his son Giovanni, while his brother Gianfranco, once more, did not want to get re-involved in the motorcycle business.
Claudio’s health is not good; he is fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatment, not the best condition to run a company that, while enjoying a superb image on the international motorcycle market, badly needs to make profits before the little treasure that Harley-Davidson left behind will vaporize. Giovanni Castiglioni is a brilliant young manager and, most important, shares with his father the same passionate love for MV Agusta, and for the motorcycling world in general.
The third man called at the helm of Castiglioni’s MV Agusta is an old acquaintance: Massimo Bordi. He is the former Chief Project Engineer at Ducati, where he created the original 851 four-valve Desmo engine. Then he climbed to the position of General Manager. His years at Ducati were marked by ups, like the original Monster and the range of four-valve Desmo models all the way to the legendary 916, created by Massimo Tamburini, with whom he always had a conflicting professional relationship. But he also stumbled on some historic downs, like the staggering failure of the last SuperSport models. Then he left Ducati and the motorcycling world to join Same Deutz Fahr, one of the largest European companies in the domain of tractors and other heavy agricultural machinery.
Claudio Castiglioni and Massimo Bordi have always been very good friends and there are signs that this return had been planned by Castiglioni even while MV Agusta was still owned by Harley-Davidson (and during sales negotiations with potential buyers, like TPG, former owners of Ducati, for instance).
I called Tamburini about the prospect of him crossing blades with Bordi again, if he were offered again the position of general manger of CRC in San Marino. Tamburini said that he would have to ponder the matter very carefully, because of the very difficult time he had getting along with Bordi in the past. Then he added that perhaps something had changed in the meantime, because a few months ago he received a surprise call from Bordi, who remembered the old days and praised Tamburini for his magnificent, artist-like creations. Maybe at 62, Bordi has smoothed out the sharp edges of his character. Maybe he was simply trying to iron out old bumps to make sure that he will be able to count again on the artist’s touch of the greatest and most creative motorcycle designer on the scene today. Time will tell, but the prospect of Tamburini-penned MVs will have Italian motorcycle fans around the world going mad with anticipation.