ROME — The Italian government has named a new CEO at Fincantieri, bringing to an end the 20-year reign of Giuseppe Bono at the state-owned shipyard.

After seeing his mandates repeatedly renewed over the years as he built Fincantieri into a dominant force in the cruise ship industry and a global player in the naval market, Bono is to step down at the age of 78.

Speaking to Italian publication L’Espresso, Bono said his mandate was not being renewed by the Italian government due to his age, adding that he “respected” the decision.

On Wednesday the government lending agency which controls 71.3% of Fincantieri proposed Pierroberto Folgiero as the new CEO, an appointment which is set to be approved at a shareholders’ meeting on May 16.

Folgiero is currently CEO of Maire Tecnimont, an Italian firm which supplies engineering and technology services to the energy industry and employs 9,100.

He will work alongside Italian Army Gen. Claudio Graziano, the former Italian military chief of staff and current chairman of the European Union Military Committee, who has been appointed chairman at Fincantieri.

“Both men have competence and vision,” Italian defense undersecretary Giorgio Mulè told Defense News.

He added that Folgiero had vast experience as a global manager, while Graziano had “excellent relationships” in the United States and Europe.

As an outsider to the shipbuilding business, Folgiero will be on a steep learning curve at Fincantieri, a sharp contrast to Bono, the industry veteran who took over the firm in 2002 after a stint running Finmeccanica, now renamed Leonardo.

During his two decades at the helm, Bono accrued an unusual amount of autonomy for an Italian state industry manager while keeping unions onside and taking a 40% share of the world’s cruise ship market.

In 2020 Fincantieri’s FREMM frigate design was selected by the U.S. Navy for its new FFG(X) vessel to be produced at Wisconsin’s Marinette Marine shipyard, which has been owned by Fincantieri since 2008 and where the firm already builds Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships with Lockheed Martin.

Bono was also a driver behind the Naviris joint venture with France’s Naval Group to jointly build new vessels, starting the European Union’s planned European Patrol Corvette.

He was criticized in Italy for selling frigates to Egypt, even as the Italian government rowed with Cairo over the fate of an Italian student allegedly kidnapped and tortured by Egyptian security officers.

In his interview with L’Espresso, Bono gave a typically confident response to questions about the Egyptian sale, claiming: “That deal, which gave us more revenue, reopened a direct channel with a country that is relevant to Italy’s geopolitical needs. There was need for ties after we became uninfluential in Libya. Today we urgently need gas, and thanks in part to me we can ask the Egyptians.”

Last month Fincantieri announced 2021 revenue of €6.7 billion ($7.27 billion) and an order backlog worth €25.8 billion ($28bn). With 33% of revenue derived from naval orders, the firm placed 49th in last year’s Defense News Top 100 ranking.

Commenting on Bono’s departure, one Italian analyst who declined to be named said the Italian government’s sway over Fincantieri would likely now increase.

“I am not sure Fincantieri will have the same ability to defend its autonomy as it did under Bono,” he said.

Mulè suggested that could be a positive, and he also predicted a closer working relationship between Fincantieri and fellow state giant Leonardo – two firms who have had a tense relationship in recent years.

“I envisage the political-industrial relationship to grow closer now, and I foresee closer ties being forged with Leonardo,” Mulè said.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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